Mood Support, Hormone Balance & 5 Other Surprising Vitamin C Perks*
Vitamin C is known for its vastly important immune support and positive impact on your skin health, but the truth is that there's a lot more to this water-soluble vitamin.* Vitamin C plays a role in everything from how well your joints move to your overall mood, making this a nutrient you don't want to skimp on (it is nutritionally essential, after all).*
Unfortunately, 46% of U.S. adults1 aren't getting enough vitamin C daily from their diet alone. In other words, there's a 50/50 chance you're missing out on the whole-body benefits that vitamin C has to offer.
Making sure you get the right levels of vitamin C through diet and supplementation can make a big impact not just on skin elasticity and the function of your immune system, but on your overall well-being as well.*
Still skeptical? Keep reading for seven vitamin C perks we're willing to bet you're not aware of:
Helps maintain joint mobility.
Vitamin C plays a critical role in the synthesis of collagen, the "primary protein in joint tissue," says Amanda Holtzer, M.S., R.D., a dietitian at Culina Health. Collagen is crucial for optimizing joint mobility, which means maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin C keeps your joints healthy and moving with ease.*
As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C can also protect your joints from reactive oxygen species (ROS): "The primary function of vitamin C is to destroy free radicals in the body. Those free radicals are what trigger inflammatory pathways,"* Holtzer explains. Translation? The more vitamin C, the better for your joint mobility.*
Promotes eye health.
As mbg's vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, shared, "While we might start thinking about eye health later in life, the fact is, the earlier we nutritionally nurture these precious organs, the better." She continues, "in fact, we know from nationally representative research that younger vs. older adults are more likely to have worse vitamin C status2 (i.e., blood levels of serum ascorbic acid), so paying attention to your eyes and this essential micronutrient earlier in life is especially important."*
Why? As it turns out, your eyes are constantly breaking down, synthesizing, and forming new cells, and that can allow free radicals to thrive if left unchecked. "Therefore, the eyes need extra antioxidant protection from free radicals and reactive oxygen species," Holtzer says. "Vitamin C can provide that antioxidant protection."*
According to Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, vitamin C also helps keep the eye's natural lens clear3 and maintain vision health as we age, thanks to its antioxidant actions.*
An Ophthalmology 4study4 with 5,638 participants over the age of 60 in India found that vitamin C status was inversely associated with eye-health concerns.* In other words, the more vitamin C people had, the more likely they were to maintain healthy vision.*
Interestingly, the Ophthalmology study revealed that other antioxidants (i.e., lutein, zeaxanthin, retinol, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol) also had positive effects on participants' eye health, with these oxidant-combating compounds imparting profound vision and clarity benefits.*
Supports iron absorption.
Vitamin C is "very important in keeping iron in a form that can be absorbed into the blood and better utilized in the support of healthy metabolism,"* says clinical biochemist Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.
Iron is notoriously difficult to absorb, but vitamin C works to enhance the bioavailability5 of nonheme iron, a form of the mineral that comes from plants and animals (and is not as easily absorbed as heme iron, which comes from animal food sources).* Vitamin C also optimizes the uptake of iron from transferrin (the protein that transports iron through the blood), which helps distribute the nutrient well for its whole-body use by our cells.
Speaking to vegetarians and vegans especially, "for someone who is looking to get most of their iron from less bioavailable plant sources, vitamin C can go a long way toward helping with iron absorption,"* says Jessica Cording, R.D., registered dietitian, health coach, and mbg Collective member.
Helps protect the brain.
"When you find a high level of a particular micronutrient in an organ or type of cell, there's a good chance it's working real hard to promote health there in a targeted way," explains Ferira. Case in point: Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in the brain6, and your neurons (aka nerve cells) and glia (a network of cells that supports your nervous system) rely on the absorption and transfer of vitamin C to work properly.*
Vitamin C's antioxidant activity also plays a vital role in supporting brain health.* "Because the brain has so much fat, it is very susceptible to ROS," Keatley says. "Like in other parts of the body, vitamin C combats free radicals by combining with them and then leaving the body via the kidneys."*
Provides mood support.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of certain neurotransmitters that influence your mood—like dopamine and norepinephrine, Cording explains.*
The science supports Cording's intel: A study published in the journal Antioxidants7 in 2018 found that people with high concentrations of vitamin C in their blood were more likely to have a better mood compared to those with lower plasma levels (i.e., poor vitamin C status).* Those who had sufficient levels of vitamin C were also less likely to report feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion.*
Helps sustain hormonal balance.
Vitamin C has a vital role in adrenal health and HPA axis homeostasis—i.e., your body's ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol8.* According to Holtzer, the adrenal glands (small glands attached to your kidneys that make hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, and other important body functions) have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C of all your organs.
Hearkening back to Ferira's earlier insight about organs chock-full of C, this is a clue one should not ignore. "[The adrenal glands] require a high amount of vitamin C in order to produce cortisol, aka the stress hormone,"* Holtzer explains. "So, it stands to reason that during times of high or prolonged stress, aka times of high cortisol levels, the adrenal glands need more vitamin C."*
Promotes healthy blood pressure levels.
Scientific research has also linked vitamin C sufficiency with healthy blood pressure levels.* A large, robust meta-analysis of 29 clinical trials published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition9 found that, over a period of about eight weeks, people who regularly took a vitamin C supplement experienced useful reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures.*
Vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis, and collagen allows for flexibility in your arteries—a key component of healthy blood pressure, Bland says.* "Vitamin C also helps promote anti-inflammatory actions in the blood vessels, which has a beneficial effect on blood pressure control,"* he adds.
Vitamin C plays a role in a truly wide range of physiological systems throughout the body. If you're looking to harness the powers of this essential vitamin, try a high-quality daily vitamin C supplement like mbg's vitamin C potency+ that leverages the power of a high-potency vitamin C, plus lipids and citrus bioflavonoids, for superior cellular absorption and ability to combat oxidative stress.*
And, if you're concerned about your vitamin C levels, talk to your health care provider. They should be able to order a blood test to see exactly where you're at (and help get you where you need to be!).
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, relationships, and lifestyle trends with a master’s degree from American University. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Self, Glamour, and more. She lives by the beach, and hopes to own a taco truck one day.