Would you like to be smarter? Of course, you would! Who wouldn’t want to be able to bring laser-like attention to the task at hand, assess all the elements in a situation quickly, analyze how they interrelate, and remain wholeheartedly engaged and absorbed until any problem is solved creatively and effectively?
Well, vitamin C supplementation can help with that, especially if you’re at all deficient — and most of us are!
Recently, Korean scientists assembled a group of 241 healthy, young (ages 20-39) adults to see if their serum vitamin C levels correlated with their “mental vitality.” Indeed, it did. So the researchers went a step further.
About half of these young Korean men and women had “inadequate” levels of the vitamin, which the researchers defined as being less than 0.88 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Fifty of these vitamin C-insufficient subjects were invited to participate in a four-week experiment. Half of them took 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day, for a total of 1,000 mg per day, while the other half were given a placebo.
Everyone who took 1,000 mg daily reached the desired serum level of vitamin C over 0.88 mg/dL, and, when given a battery of tests, these study participants scored significantly higher than those who received the placebo in the following categories: attention, absorption in the work, and cognitive functions such as selective attention, cognitive flexibility, and information processing speed.
The researchers also looked for differences in fatigue and mood (i.e., stress, depression and anxiety) since several previous studies had reported lower fatigue and better mood in those with a higher vitamin C status. In this particular study, no differences were found in mood between the supplemented and un-supplemented participants; however, those who had received vitamin C supplementation experienced less fatigue.
While almost half of the original 241 Korean study participants didn’t meet the rather minimal standard of 0.88 mg/dL, what about those of us in the United States?
According to the most recent large government survey, we too have a problem. A recent analysis of the 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) found that 42% of subjects tested had inadequate levels of vitamin C in their plasma.
Groups singled out in this report as having the lowest plasma levels were “males, adults aged 20–59, Black and Mexican Americans, smokers, individuals with increased BMI, middle and high poverty to income ratio and food insecurity.” (Most vitamin C deficiency research has been done on the elderly, while clearly more attention needs to be paid to deficiencies in young and middle-aged adults.)
So what does all of this mean? It means that over 40% of us are struggling with a significant handicap simply because we aren’t giving our brain cells the vitamin C they crave!
The highest concentrations of vitamin C in our bodies are found in our brains, where it performs critical functions. As the body’s most important water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C protects neurons (brain cells) from the highly damaging effects of oxidative stress. Vitamin C also plays a critical role in the development and maturation of neurons. It also regulates the synthesis and release of the “feel-good” and energizing chemicals serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and the stress hormones. Meanwhile, vitamin C is essential for energy. One of the first signs of scurvy—the kind of severe vitamin C deficiency that killed old-time sailors who had no access to fresh produce—is fatigue. Many of us are suffering from subclinical scurvy!
And please understand that the percentage of people suffering from inadequate vitamin C is much higher than 40%. Because what the above study and the US government consider “sufficient” is far from optimal. For example, the Korean researchers note that although they didn’t find that 1,000 mg/day of vitamin C supplementation affected mood, a previous study using 3,000 mg/day “lowered subjective stress against acute psychological stressors.”
So what is an optimal amount?
At Beyond Health, we recommend a minimum of 6,000 mg (equal to 6 grams) a day, which is probably enough for most relatively healthy people under normal conditions. But each of us is biologically unique, and everyone’s need for vitamin C is different. Also, our needs vary considerably depending on the state of our health and our life circumstances. We’ll go into this in more detail next week and show you how you can determine your precise need.
Vitamin C is Beyond Health’s flagship product. We consider vitamin C to be the “most important molecule you can put into your body,” and are quite passionate about supplying the purest and most effective vitamin C that’s possible to produce. Yes, you need a multivitamin, and yes, you need a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but right alongside these fundamentals, you need adequate amounts of vitamin C to feel your best and perform at your best, including maximizing whatever mental faculties you may possess!
- Sim M. Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. European Journal of Nutrition. February 2022;61(1):447-459.
- Crook J. Insufficient vitamin C levels among adults in the United States Results from the NHANES Surveys, 2003-2006. Nutrients. October 2021;13(11):3910.
- Brody S. A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology. 2002;159:319–324.