It’s one of the most popular vitamins on the market. We’re talking C. And we’re most familiar with vitamin C in regards to the immune system. But new studies are lasering in on the power that vitamin C has on cognitive function.
In one recent study,1 researchers concluded there was “a significant association between vitamin C concentrations and performance on tasks involving attention, focus, working memory, decision speed, both delayed and total recall, and recognition.”
Look at it this way, the brain has an enormous concentration of vitamin C.2 Which is why it’s not surprising that we are discovering that vitamin C blood concentrations are linked to cognitive functioning.
In fact, vitamin C plays a number of crucial roles in cognitive performance:
First. Our brains are powered by billions of neurons all burning through glucose to produce our thoughts, feelings, and movements.3 It’s a mental symphony occurring inside of you right now as read these words. And the byproduct of all this metabolic action is the release of reactive oxygen molecules (ROS) like free radicals. One of vitamin C’s long-established functions is its power as an antioxidant. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, which left unchecked can damage DNA.
Second. Vitamin C is required for your body to manufacture a variety of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.4 Additionally, your body uses vitamin C to convert dopamine into serotonin. And, vitamin C is critical to modulating the release of these neurotransmitters in nerve cells.5 Each of these play an important part in not only our cognitive but emotional functioning.
Third. Vitamin C has a vital function in the creation of neurons themselves, as well as the formation of the myelin sheath.6 The myelin sheath surrounds and protects nerves including those in the brain and spinal cord.7
Fourth. The structural and functional integrity of blood vessel are key to brain function.8 Here again, vitamin C performs several significant tasks9 in maintaining our blood vessels.10 And this is especially important since a variety of findings are linking neurodegenerative diseases to a breakdown in cerebral blood flow. Vitamin C helps maintain the lining and is vital in repair of the smallest blood vessels that feed blood (read oxygen and nutrients), even capillaries sized for one blood cell at a time, to brain tissue. When these small pathways in our circulatory system break down, it can affect cognitive function.11
Add this all together: healthy neurons and surrounding myelin sheath, strong blood vessels, flourishing neurotransmitters, and of course prolific antioxidant supply eliminating free radicals. This is a small picture at the astounding importance of vitamin C on cognitive performance. And this is especially important as we age.
One meta-analysis reviewed 50 different studies and determined a clear link between lower blood concentrations of vitamin C and cognitive impairment. Not only that but, researchers found that in those that were considered cognitively intact or unimpaired, blood levels of vitamin C correlated with their cognitive ability.12
There is a growing body of research linking vitamin C to the prevention of neural loss13 which is typical in diseases like Alzheimer, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. However, it is important to note, that the majority of these studies found that it was the long-term levels of vitamin C that were significant. Rather than the use of vitamin C as a treatment. And since our bodies don’t produce vitamin C, it’s vital to consume adequate amounts every day. Luckily, vitamin C is widely available in an array of fresh fruits and vegetables.14 And of course, in highly bioavailable liposomal vitamin c supplements like yours truly.