Vitamin C and Mood

For a long time, emotions and logical thought have been portrayed as competing processes, with emotions depicted as obstacles to effective decision making. On the other hand, emotions and cognitions might work together to determine our behaviors. Whether or not one controls the other is still a question. If puppy dog eyes can influence a decision or alter a mood, well, “Aw, come on. Please?”  The rigidity of doctrine can be tempered by the plasticity of human thought and behavior, right? If so, a good mood can change outcomes, or at least change the behaviors that affect the outcomes.

Despite their best efforts, even positive people get in bad moods. It could be lack of sleep, or maybe being overworked or overwhelmed. Perhaps there is regret for having done something…or having done nothing. Emotional responses happen so quickly that it becomes a challenge to put a space between feeling and doing. Have you ever snapped at someone for no reason? Or fibbed and said you’re feeling great when you really felt like screaming? Maybe it’s time to figure out what’s standing between you and a smile, and to rewrite the story that precipitated the bad mood. The mood is yours. There’s no need to share it.

Nutritional deficiencies, mostly caused by poor diet, play a part in mood. Junk food equates to junk mood. Edible things devoid of nutritional value, washed down with sweetened, flavored and carbonated distilled water can make you feel depressed, irritable and sick. It’s little wonder that short tempers abound. Recent study has confirmed the importance of micronutrients to the expression of mood, and vitamin C is one of them. Hypovitaminosis is a term that describes vitamin deficiency, though most often associated with vitamin D. It happens when the system is unable to absorb the right amount of vitamins from food or supplements, and results in a number of medical conditions, like scurvy, beriberi, or pellagra, among others.

Vitamin C deficit is not very common in the general population, but does show up in cancer patients and in those with conditions that inhibit absorption. Age, poor diet, medications and obesity are contributing factors. The widowed elderly, for example, often do not eat properly because they don’t cook for themselves. Community settings can make a difference in their nutrient balance.

In acute care situations, as in a short-term hospital stay, hypovitaminosis is more common than one might think, and malnutrition of vitamin C (often accompanied by vitamin D) has been linked to mood disturbances and cognitive upset. In these cases, doses as little as 500 mg twice a day resolved issues with psychological distress and irascible mood (Wang, 2013). Because vitamin C is water-soluble, it needs to be replaced regularly. Most animals can make their own. Humans, apes and guinea pigs cannot. Without it, the body cannot make collagen or the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.

It’s not completely clear if hypovitaminosis C results from outright deficiency or from tissue redistribution as part of the acute-phase response. Investigations stand on both sides of the street (Evans-Olders, 2010). This response is an innate body defense during acute illness and involves the increased production of certain blood proteins, appropriately called acute phase proteins. Once activated, these substances cause the release of inflammatory molecules, the most well known being C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker unexpectedly related to mood disorders in the presence of even low-grade inflammation (DeBerardis, 2006) (Luukinen, 2010). Since CRP is also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular involvement, reducing it is a prudent objective on two fronts. Vitamin C was found to be as effective as statin drugs in lowering CRP levels by more than 25% in a study of individuals whose inflammatory markers put them at risk for a cardiac event (Block, 2009). In patients with active disease, such as cancer, intravenous vitamin C was found to have a salutary effect on CRP and pro-inflammatory cytokines (Mikirova, 2012).

Decrease in blood vitamin concentrations is common to the acute-phase response, but is more common because people fail to get the nutrition they need to maintain optimum health. A glass of orange juice just won’t cut it. Not only are mood and cognitive ability worthy of adequate nutrient intake, but also total physiological function. Supplements have been shown to improve mental processing and response to stress, to reduce fatigue, and even to attenuate psychological and physical damage from noise (Angrini, 2012), including high blood pressure (Fernandes, 2011). Vitamin C now has an identified mechanism of activity beyond that of anti-oxidant. It enhances mood.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.