Vitamin C’s Role in Brain Health


Most people are aware that vitamin C is an important part of a healthy diet and that humans need a regular dose since the body can’t store this vitamin. Vitamin C supports tissue healing and natural collagen production. What is less well-known is the importance of vitamin C to brain health.

Vitamin C – also known as ascorbate – is an antioxidant. It can be obtained from foods like citrus fruits and peppers or through vitamin C supplements. Although the whole body uses vitamin C in various functions, it is of critical importance in the brain. Researchers have found that the body’s highest concentrations of vitamin C are found in the brain and other neuroendocrine tissue. It is also very difficult for the brain to become depleted of ascorbate, suggesting that it is critical for proper brain function. In addition, when vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) occurs, the body holds onto ascorbate in the brain tissue when other tissues become depleted.

Among other functions, vitamin C is used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers the brain cells use to communicate. Neurotransmitters affect the body’s emotions and control important chemical processes such as the “fight or flight” response to stress and danger. Scientists have discovered, for example, that the nerve cells of the eye – the retina is part of the nervous system – must be bathed in ascorbate in order to function properly. The retina contains special cells called GABA receptors, that help control communication between brain cells. Current findings indicate vitamin C is critical for these receptors to function properly; in the absence of vitamin C, the receptors stop working.

The implications of these findings support the long-standing advice from nutritionists and doctors for people to eat or take vitamins C in some form every day. Vitamin C-rich foods include chile and bell peppers, kale, papaya, strawberries, cauliflower and, of course, oranges. Vitamin C supplements are also readily available in various forms.