Vitamin C Essential for Better Brain Health
The health benefits of vitamin C go far beyond boosting immunity, fighting colds and making your skin look more radiant. Recent research shows it may also help reduce cognitive decline and the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
In a study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers explored the association between vitamin C levels and health effects in 50-year-old participants. The individuals were tested on a range of cognitive functions — such as memory and concentration — as well as metabolic factors like cholesterol and triglycerides.
Correlations were immediately noted between vitamin C levels and metabolic health. Participants with higher levels of vitamin C had lower BMIs, smaller waist circumferences and even better levels of insulin and HbA1C, an indicator of better blood sugar control. Altogether, these findings suggest vitamin C may help in preventing — and even alleviating — diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
But, most surprisingly, the results showed a fairly strong correlation between vitamin C levels and healthy cognition.
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Can Vitamin C Boost Your Brain Health?
Researchers found that a 1-micromole-per-liter elevation in blood levels of vitamin C was linked to a 3-percent reduction in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Levels below 23 micromoles per liter, which are categorized as a moderate deficiency, doubled the risk of MCI.
While surprising to many, this correlation makes perfect sense.
Concentrations of vitamin C are much higher in the brain than in other parts of the body. Even when blood levels are low, the brain strives to maintain its supply. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and is key to the formation of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells and speeds impulse transmission. Its prominence in the brain certainly indicates that it plays an essential role in cognition.
Vitamin C: An Underestimated Nutrient Hero
After all these years, it’s possible we all take this essential nutrient for granted.
In addition to the above, research has confirmed vitamin C has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a fierce antioxidant that has been shown to curb cancer cell proliferation in some types of cancers, and has demonstration use as both an antibacterial and an antiviral agent. It’s also particularly important in producing collagen and metabolizing proteins, which is why vitamin C is heavily promoted for healthy skin. Studies suggest vitamin C supports wound healing, lowers histamine and even lends to healthier blood vessels. It also may reduce the risk of cataracts, diabetes and anemia and seasickness.
Vitamin C Guidelines and Food Sources
Although only 10 milligrams (mg) per day prevent scurvy, the RDA is 75 mg/day for women and 90 mg/day for men. In the above study, only 7 percent of the participants had optimal levels, while 63 percent had inadequate levels. Factors such as chronic disease, smoking, alcohol consumption and exposure to pollution create extra demand for the vitamin.
The body doesn’t manufacture vitamin C, so it must be supplied in the diet. Fruits and vegetables are the best source, and because heat destroys the vitamin, it’s best to eat some of these foods raw. Extra rich sources include citrus, papayas, pineapples, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and mangos.