Vitamin C and the Brain Connection

Vitamin C and the Brain Connection

Researchers have observed that mental health disorders are on the increase in developed countries and this is correlated with the deterioration of the western diet.

According to studies a lack of vital dietary nutrients are contributing to the development of a range of mental conditions.

Essential vitamins such as vitamin C are shown to be exceptionally deficient in individuals suffering with mental disorders.

However daily supplementation has been found to effectively reduce patients’ symptoms.

The highest concentrations of vitamin C throughout the body are located in the brain and central nervous system where its main function is as an antioxidant in the defence of cells.

Studies have demonstrated that Vitamin C has the ability to neutralise free radical damage which is generated during normal cellular metabolism and is therefore vital for its neuroprotective role.

In addition to its well-known role as an antioxidant, Vitamin C has a number of non-antioxidant functions.

Serving as a co-factor in several important enzyme reactions that facilitate the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as norepinephrine (noradrenalin) and dopamine.

These important neurotransmitters are needed for motivation, alertness, concentration and memory.

As well as this vitamin C acts to reduce the toxicity of heavy metals in the brain, which if left to accumulate can lead to mental disorders.

Vitamin C plays a key role in maintaining the integrity and function of many processes in the central nervous system including the maturation of neurones and the formation of myelin that surrounds and protects nerve fibres as well as being vital for neuronal repair.

It has also been found to act as a neuromodulator which may influence the regulation of mood.



The brain is a highly metabolically active organ and is therefore particularly exposed to oxidative stress and free radical damage.

Research evidence suggests that these detrimental processes may play a relevant role in the pathogenic mechanisms that underlie a number of neuropsychological disorders including depression.

In a trial where mice with chemically induced depressive like behaviour were given repeated doses of vitamin C scientists observed a rapid and robust reversal of behavioural and biochemical symptoms.

Their findings suggest that vitamin C may be an alternative approach for managing depressive symptoms.

According to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, low levels of vitamin C were correlated with depression in the elderly. 

Another study from McGill University in Montreal found that administration of 500mg of vitamin C twice a day to hospital patients, significantly improved their mood.

Many antidepressants have considerable side effects, which can discourage some patients from taking their medications.

Individuals with mental health disorders that fall into this category are at greater risk of attempting suicide or being institutionalised and as such may benefit from nutritional support – vitamin C is a safe and natural option.

Despite being commonly taken by those in need of immune support, vitamin C can also be an invaluable nutrient to consider for alleviating low mood and depression.



Individuals with bi-polar disorder display symptoms of both depression and mania.

One of the most consistent findings of patients with depression is that they have dysfunctional neuroendocrine systems which may be a result of prolonged responses to chronic stress.

The neurotransmitter, acetylcholine has been found to play a significant role in the process of emotional and physiological responses to stress and bipolar patients are inclined to have excess acetylcholine receptors, which appear to be a major cause of depression and mania.

Bipolar patients have also been found to produce elevated levels of the trace mineral vanadium, which has a negative effect on healthy mood, causing mania, melancholy and depression.

However, vitamin C which acts to detoxify vanadium has been shown to protect the body from the damage caused by excess vanadium.

Positive results from research were found using vitamin C to control elevated vanadium levels in a double-blind, placebo controlled crossover study.

Just a single 3g dose of vitamin C was able to reduce symptoms in both manic and depressed patients compared to those given a placebo.



Antioxidants may play an important therapeutic role in combating the damage caused by oxidative stress in individuals that suffer from anxiety.

A growing body of evidence suggests that anxiety is associated with a deficiency of vitamin C, furthermore supplementing with vitamin C may help to reduce feelings of anxiety.

The underlying mechanisms are not fully understood but it seems that vitamin C may act by regulating neurotransmitter activity and lessening cortisol production which might prevent stress induced oxidative damage.

A recent study evaluated the effects of 500mg a day of vitamin C on students in a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Blood pressure and anxiety levels of each participant were measured before and after the intervention.

Results extracted after just 14 days, identified that heart rates and anxiety were significantly lower in students given vitamin C compared to students given a placebo.

This suggests that vitamin C could play an important therapeutic role for controlling anxiety and that a diet rich in vitamin C could be an effective support alongside medical and psychological treatment for anxiety and may potentially improve academic performance.


Top 10 Vitamin C Rich Brain Foods

Contrary to popular belief oranges – whilst being a good source of vitamin C do not have the highest concentration compared to other foods.

It may also come as a surprise to know that animal offal contains small amounts of vitamin C, as does milk. 

However if you’re thinking about protecting your brain function and want to seriously up your vitamin C intake, you will benefit most by choosing from the following fruit and vegetables which are some of the top 10 richest sources.


Vitamin C content per cup (raw food)

  1. Guava – 377 mg
  2. Black Currant – 203 mg
  3. Red pepper – 190 mg
  4. Kiwi – 164 mg
  5. Green peppers – 120 mg
  6. Orange – 95.8 mg
  7. Strawberries – 89.4 mg
  8. Papaya – 88 mg
  9. Broccolli – 81.2 mg
  10. Kale – 80.4 mg

Get Your Vitamin C To Avoid Stroke

A new study has shown encouraging results that getting plenty of vitamin C can cut the risk of stroke.

Many natural fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins C, with the highest content being seen in bell peppers, citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, guava and papaya. Although it is also available in a vitamin supplement tablet form, it is always recommended that you get your intake from fresh produce as much as possible. 

The study has shown that enough vitamin C can reduce the risk of haemorrhagic stroke, which is not so common as ischaemic stroke but generally a lot more deadly.

During the study, 65 people who had suffered a haemorrhagic stroke to the same number of healthy subjects.

All subjects had vitamin C blood levels tested, and of the stroke sufferers almost half had low vitamin C levels in the blood with 14% showing as deficient in vitamin C.

Subjects who had not suffered a stroke seemed to have normal levels of vitamin C.

A study spokesperson commented that the study was quite small and that far more research will be needed to confirm the connections, but that the results certainly suggested a strong link between vitamin C deficiency and stroke.


Related topics:


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