Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential water-soluble micronutrient that has had a dramatic influence on world history. Naval and sea battles have literally been won and lost based on the numbers of the naval forces sick with scurvy (severe Vitamin C deficiency).
Vitamin C is the most effective antioxidant in our blood, due to its water solubility and to the wide range of radical oxygen species that it can scavenge.
Here are 10 of the most important benefits of vitamin C:
1. Keeps Your Brain Healthy
As proof of the importance of Vitamin C for brain health, the brain retains Vitamin C at the expense of other tissues during chronic states of deficiency and can uphold concentrations 100-fold higher than other organs, e.g. liver and kidney.
Vitamin C plays a role in many important functions in the brain, including reactive oxygen species scavenging, neuromodulation, and the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
Vitamin C also prevents neuronal damage.
2. Improves Your Mood
Long-term Vitamin C deprivation is linked to nervousness and emotional instability.
Vitamin C increases oxytocin release.
There was a 35% reduction in mood disturbance in hospitalized patients following treatment with Vitamin C.
3. Regulates Blood Pressure
Vitamin C significantly lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild-to-moderately high blood pressure.
4. Powerful Antioxidant
As an electron donor, vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant.
This may explain why diets which are high in vitamin C are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
While scientists are still not positive that the protective effects of these diets can be attributed to vitamin C or some more complex interplay of nutrients, it is likely that vitamin C plays a potent role because of its status as an antioxidant.
Free radicals are known to play a role in the development of disease and aging.
5. Lowers Anxiety
Vitamin C reduced anxiety in high school students.
Short-term supplementation of Vitamin C was safe and beneficial for reducing anxiety levels in diabetic patients.
6. Increases Bone Density
The loss of bone density is a common problem among the elderly, particularly women. Decreased bone density can lead to osteoporosis and fractures.
Bone loss has been linked to oxidative stress, but supplementation with vitamin C has been shown to yield some protective effect.
Researchers suggest 1,000 mg of ascorbic acid along with 400 IU of alpha-tocopherol as a preventative for age-related osteoporosis.
This same dosage may help to treat osteoporosis in those who have already developed the disease.
7. Fights Against Depression
Many studies have found that Vitamin C can reduce the severity of depressive disorders in both children and adults, as well as improve the mood of healthy individuals.
In a trial including depressed shift workers, Vitamin C significantly decreased depression severity.
Vitamin C deficient mice are less active.
Poor Vitamin C status is associated with increased symptoms of depression following an acute illness in older people.
Adequate Vitamin C levels are necessary for the conversion of the neurotransmitter dopamine to norepinephrine, an important hormone in depression and mood swings, explaining why patients with Vitamin C depletion have significantly increased symptoms of depression.
Vitamin C also increases the effectiveness of antidepressants. Patients treated for six months with fluoxetine and Vitamin C showed a significant decrease in depressive symptoms compared to the fluoxetine plus placebo group.
8. Increases the Absorption of Iron
Vitamin C can help you to increase your absorption of iron.
In fact, according to one study, "280 mg [of vitamin C] … taken only with breakfast … would produce a nearly two-fold increase in the amount of iron absorbed daily."
Iron plays a key role in forming hemoglobin, and also supports muscle and brain function.
Adequate iron absorption is necessary to avoid anemia and fatigue.
So while these are not direct benefits of vitamin C, they are all indirect benefits.
9. Boosts Your Absorption of Calcium
Iron is not the only nutrient which can be absorbed more effectively with the aid of vitamin C.
Research also shows that vitamin C as ascorbic acid can enhance intestinal absorption of calcium.
Incidentally, calcium is included in many buffered vitamin C supplements to help maintain pH balance and aid in digestion.
So taking vitamin C and calcium together confers multiple benefits.
10. Reduces Fatigue
Administration of high dose intravenous Vitamin C reduced fatigue in office workers.
Vitamin C delays fatigue in rats.