Vitamin C is a key nutrient in lemons and other citrus fruits. As an antioxidant, its beneficial properties are only just beginning to be revealed by scientific study.
Along with physical health, it appears that Vitamin C plays a big role in maintaining mental health. The reason lies in the connections between Vitamin C and the brain.
Vitamin C and the Brain
Vitamin C plays a key role in the operation of the brain and central nervous system. It acts as a kind of modulator, helping your brain and nerve cells to use chemical messengers like dopamine, the so-called happy hormone.
- It also aids in the complicated process where brain cells generate and mature;
- Vitamin C helps to both create and maintain neural connections.
Three recent studies begin to reveal what that means to mental health.
i. Vitamin C Deficiency & Depression
A 2020 study from Australia made a connection between vitamin C deficiency and its neuropsychiatric effects, published in BMC Psychiatry.
The researchers mention, “Vitamin C deficiency may be more common than is generally assumed, and the association between vitamin C deficiency and adverse psychiatric effects has been known for centuries.” They reviewed the results of nine scientific studies for evidence.
- Scurvy, caused by Vitamin C deficiency, has been linked to depression and cognitive impairment;
- Even with differing standards and ways of measuring Vitamin C deficiency between the studies, the recent survey linked Vitamin C deficiency in general with depression.
ii. High Vitamin C Levels Associated With ‘Elevated Mood’
A study from New Zealand looked at male students, their intake of Vitamin C, and mood. The study used the results from 139 students aged 18 to 35, measuring their fasting plasma Vitamin C levels, and using a standard mood profile test.
“Micronutrient status is thought to impact on psychological mood due to the role of nutrients in brain structure and function,” the researchers write.
- There was an inverse relationship between Vitamin C status and emotions like depression, anger, and confusion – the more Vitamin C, the lower the levels of depression;
- “Those individuals with the highest plasma vitamin C concentrations were more likely to have elevated mood.”
As the paper notes, when the body is deprived of Vitamin C, it’s the brain that will hoard it until the very last moment – an indication of its importance in brain function.
iii. Low Vitamin C Levels Linked To Increased Depression
A study from the United Arab Emirates looked at how Vitamin C is linked with depression in a group of 322 older people who had recently suffered an acute illness.
- Acute illness causes inflammation, which can result in poor appetite and eating habits;
- “Poor vitamin C status is associated with increased depression symptoms following acute illness in older people,” the researchers write.
The study is important in particular for elderly people who are ill and hospitalized. The researchers found that a large proportion of those patients had poor Vitamin C intake, which is an easy and inexpensive thing to fix.
While the work is ongoing, it’s clear that Vitamin C plays a large role in brain health, and mental health.