For some reason Japanese people love them some excessive amounts of vitamin C. Go to any convenience store or supermarket and your sure to find competing brands of drinks all loaded with the recommended daily intake of the stuff several times over.

But really, how many of us know off-hand what the daily recommended intake is? That’s why back in 2009 the Japan Soft Drink Association (JSDA) came up with a new labeling system that measures the amount of vitamin C added in units of lemons. I’m not sure how that actually makes it any clearer, but at least its something.

However, in the process it seems they have inadvertently created a formula that shows how a single lemon contains an infinite amount vitamin C.

■ “This drink has 50 lemons worth of vitamin C”

The JSDA came up with the lemon measurement scheme after they received many requests from drink makers to establish a universal way to advertise the amount of vitamin C to make it easier for consumers to understand.

And so a study was conducted in cooperation with the Japan Association of Fruit Juice to determine how much vitamin C was in a single lemon so they could use it as a unit of measurement.

Working from Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare data, they assumed an average lemon to be 120 grams, 30 percent of which was juice. They also learned that 100 grams of juice has 50 milligrams of vitamin C inside. And so:

In the end they rounded that up to an even 20 milligrams of vitamin C in a single lemon and the standard was set. For example, this bottle of Aquarius Vitamin I just purchased boasts 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C or “50 lemons worth of vitamin C” — that’s over 11 times the recommended daily intake for an adult male and a good chance I’ll be getting a tummy ache in the near future.

■ The plot infinitely thickens

This was pretty old news until a Twitter user named Sarapon, who appears to be a puppet, came across it and found an interesting statistic.

“According to the Japan Soft Drink Association guidelines the amount of vitamin C in one lemon is about 20 milligrams. Since an actual lemon contains 80 milligrams of vitamin C, one lemon contains the vitamin C of four lemons.”

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Other Twitter users extrapolated that theory to its logical conclusion: One lemon contains the vitamin C of an infinite number of lemons. This is assuming the amount of vitamin C in a lemon does not equal zero…but come on. That would be silly now, wouldn’t it.

However, Sarapon made the classic mistake of a C student by failing to show its work, leaving us wondering where that “80 milligrams of vitamin C in a real lemon” figure came from. Never one to trust the scientific rigor of a puppet, I decided to investigate.

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the amount of vitamin C in a whole raw lemon is 100 milligrams per 100 grams.

The data doesn’t specify whether that includes the vitamin-rich peel, so Sarapon was probably fair in low-balling its estimate to 80 milligrams to account for the flesh of the lemon and the juice. The JSDA isn’t wrong either in using the 50 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of juice either since that’s the only part of a lemon that people usually consume outside of a few oddballs (you know who you are).

However, by labeling their drinks as having a number of lemon’s worth of vitamin C rather than a number of lemon’s juice’s vitamin C, they were close to triggering a paradox of the sourest nature. Actually, the JSDA was always hip to that and added “converted to juice” in parenthesis just to dispel wiseguys like Sarapon. Because of this, one real lemon has the vitamin C of one lemon converted to juice, and balance is restored to the universe.

▼ “Vitamin C: 1000 mg – 50 Lemons (Converted to Juice)”

As for the rest of us, considering the difference between the vitamin C in the fruit’s flesh compared to the juice, we’d all be better off if we’d forego these fortified drinks altogether and just went and sucked on a lemon.

Source: Twitter – @sarapon, National Soft Drink Association, MEXT Food Composition Database (Japanese)
Lemon Images: Wikipedia – André Karwath, Bordercolliez (Edited by RocketNews24)
Other Images: RocketNews24