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In a fast-paced and distraction-filled world, most of us struggle to get things done. It’s tough to focus your attention on any one thing. Many of us are looking for ways to improve our sense of motivation and focus. Still, research shows that lacking sustained attention may be related to low levels of an essential nutrient—vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that behaves as an antioxidant in the body. As a result, the vitamin can support healthy aging and cellular health. Your body can’t make any of its own vitamin C.
According to the European Journal of Nutrition research, having an inadequate level of vitamin C in your blood is related to low mental vitality in adults between the ages of 20 and 39. In this study, mental vitality refers to factors including:
- Work motivation
- Attentional focus
- Overall cognitive performance on tasks that require sustained attention
The double-blind placebo-controlled study looked at vitamin C supplements and their effects on attention and work engagement. Researchers concluded that supplementing with vitamin C, compared to a placebo, did help attention and comprehensive work engagement. The vitamin C supplementation also appeared to reduce fatigue.
In the study, the young adults took a daily vitamin C dose of 1,000 mg for four weeks.
Study participants taking a vitamin C supplement daily did better on a color-word test, had faster-processing speeds, and had a longer attention capacity than participants not taking the supplement.
In this study, mood levels didn’t appear to be affected by supplementing with vitamin C, but a 2018 study found different results. In this study, people with high vitamin C concentrations in their blood were more likely to have a good mood than those with lower concentrations. People with sufficient vitamin C levels were less likely to report feeling angry, confused, or sad.
Around 46% of American adults are thought to not consume enough vitamin C from their daily diet. If you’re having a hard time concentrating and focusing, you might think about whether or not a vitamin C supplement could help you.
Vitamin C and Mental Health
Vitamin C has been increasingly gaining the attention of researchers because of its pharmacological effects. Vitamin C may protect the central nervous system from oxidative stress and inflammation. It could affect neuronal development, and the nutrient has other effects closely related to mood and mental health.
In the past few decades, researchers have found vitamin C deficiency can lead to changes in behavior, motor function, and cognition. Supplementing with the vitamin has potential preventative and therapeutic effects on mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.
Even in people who don’t have clinically low levels of vitamin C, supplementing might help their mood and reduce anxiety.
Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements
Along with potentially boosting focus, mood, and attention, vitamin C supplements can have a wide variety of impressive benefits on health and wellness:
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases because it’s an antioxidant that helps your body fight inflammation.
- May help with the management of high blood pressure.
- Reduces heart disease risk factors.
- May reduce uric acid levels in your blood and help prevent gout.
- Prevents iron deficiency because vitamin C helps it absorb from your diet.
- Improves immunity through encouraging the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes to protect the body from infection.
- Reduces wound healing time.
Other Vitamins’ Impact on Mental Health
Vitamin C isn’t the only nutrient affecting mental health, mood, attention, and focus. Others include:
- Vitamin B12: Deficiency of B12 can lead to pernicious anemia, which can lead to mood swings, confusion, dementia, irritability, and even paranoia and hallucinations. Taking a combination of B12 supplements and folate can increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, both neurotransmitters that help maintain good mental health. Older people tend to be more susceptible to B12 deficiency than younger ones.
- Vitamin D: Being deficient in vitamin D is associated with mood disorders and depression.
- Folate: Folate and folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, can help ease symptoms of depression, especially when combined with antidepressants.
- Vitamin B1: Also known as thiamin, deficiency in B1 can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and irritability. The brain uses vitamin B1 to convert blood sugar into energy. Without enough vitamins, the brain may not have adequate energy to function properly.
Supplementing with Vitamin C
If you’d like to supplement with vitamin C to support mental and physical health, a liposomal option tends to be the best and most effective. Oral vitamin C administration is typically not very effective because vitamin C isn’t very bioavailable. When the vitamin is encapsulated in liposomes, it can produce higher concentrations of circulating vitamin C in the blood than with non-liposomal supplements.
Liposomes are little fat cells used to package a nutrient or supplement. It preserves the nutrient and promotes absorption. The lipid bilayer of liposomes is similar to the membrane covering all the cells in our bodies. Liposomal delivery methods can mimic our cells.
Once a supplement is in a liposome, it is absorbed similarly to dietary fat, avoiding first-pass metabolism. That means the nutrient or supplement skips the usual breaking down it would go through in the stomach.
Our picks for the best liposomal vitamin C supplements include:
- Aurora Nutrascience Mega-Liposomal Vitamin C, 3000 mg.
- Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C
- Core Med Science Liposomal Vitamin C
- Solray Liposomal Vitamin C
Increasingly, researchers are finding that vitamin C deficiency could be linked to low attention, focus, and mood. It may also contribute to certain mental health disorders. Supplementing with vitamin C could reverse the effects and promote overall health. These benefits are likely due to vitamin C’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sim, Minju, et al. “Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.” European Journal of Nutrition, February 2022. Accessed September 9, 2022.
Han, Qian-Quian, et al. “Preventative and Therapeutic Potential of Vitamin C in Mental Disorders.” NIH National Library of Medicine, February 2018. Accessed September 9, 2022.
Plevin, David, and Galletly, Cherrie. “The neuropsychiatric effects of vitamin C deficiency: A systematic review.” BMC Psychiatry, June 18, 2020. Accessed September 9, 2020.
Bauer, Brent A. MD. “Can vitamin C improve your mood?” Mayo Clinic, November 10, 2020. Accessed September 9, 2020.
WebMD Editorial Contributors. “What to Know About Vitamins and Mental Health.” WebMD, March 25, 2021. Accessed September 9, 2022.
Davids, Janelle L. et al. “Liposomal-encapsulated Ascorbic Acid: Influence on Vitamin C Bioavailability and Capacity to Protect Against Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury.” NIH National Library of Medicine, June 2016. Accessed September 9, 2022.
Pullar, Juliet M. “High Vitamin C Status Is Associated with Elevated Mood in Male Tertiary Students.” Antioxidants, July 2018. Accessed September 9, 2022.