Lack of vitamin C is related to low level mental vitality, study finds

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Vitamin c Mental health Concentration

Mental function in young adults living in industrialised countries can be improved by taking vitamin C supplements, researchers have said.

The study conducted at Seoul National University proved a link between vitamin C status with mental function in healthy young adults using population-based observational studies and randomised clinical trials (RCT).

They found that taking 1000 mg a day of vitamin C increases serum concentrations in those with levels below recommendations.

They said: “The supplementation promotes their mental vitality, especially work motivation and attentional focus, contributing to better performance on cognitive tasks that require sustained attention​.”

The link between serum vitamin C concentrations with vitality (fatigue and attention) and mood status including stress, depression was investigated using a population-based, cross-sectional investigation of healthy young adults between 20 and 39 years. Then a double-blind RCT in healthy people whose serum concentration was also inadequate.

All involved were invited to take 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day for four weeks or a placebo.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in humans that functions as an indispensable electron donor and a cofactor in various biological reactions. Interestingly it has its highest concentration in the brain and in vitro studies have reported that vitamin C performs critical roles in brain functions, protecting neurons from oxidative stress. It is important for maintaining normal mental health.

Vitamin C in industrial areas

Researchers noted that humans rely on diet for vitamin C and while deficiency can be prevented by taking one to two servings of citrus fruit or vegetables but reports​ state that those living in industrialised countries still have low levels. This can be attributed to smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating habits that fail to provide fresh and balanced diet rich in vitamin C, so even healthy young adults can be deficient. The study notes that compared to the elderly, inadequate levels of vitamin C are likely to be undiagnosed or not deemed important.

A total of 214 participants, 84 men and 130 women whose mood status and relationship with vitamin C was studied. No significant link was shown between the level of vitamin C and stress or depression. Fatigue and attention were also assessed, and while fatigue was not significantly affected by the vitamin, it was revealed that attention levels were improved.

Volunteers were also asked to take the Stroop colour-word test, a neuropsychological test used extensively to assess the ability to inhibit cognitive inference that occurs when the processing of a specific stimulus feature impedes the simultaneous processing of a second stimulus attribute. The ELISA (enzyme-linked immunoassay) blood test was used to determine serum brain-derived factor.

Better cognitive performance

The researchers noted: “Vitamin C supplementation significantly increased subjective feeling of concentration and promoted better cognitive performance requiring sustained attention. While the effects of vitamin C status on body function in old age or patients have been intensely studied, there is little information on the relationship between poor vitamin C status and the and impaired psychological well-being in a healthy young population.”

The data showed that the serum vitamin C concentration was positively associated with the level of attention that indicates mental vitality and a distinct tendency of improvement on fatigue and comprehensive work engagement.

The study reports: “The supplementation promotes healthy young adults’ mental vitality, especially work motivation and attentional focus, contributing to a better performance on cognitive tasks that require sustained attention.”

Source: Nutrition

First published:

'Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in health young adults; results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial'

Authors: Minju Sim et al

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