Can an orange a day keep the doctor away? No, but according to a new study, taking vitamin C supplements throughout the day can measurably reduce the effects of stress.
American and German researchers reported in the January issue of the journal Psychopharmacology that blood pressure was significantly lower in people subjected to a stressful situation after they had taken high doses of vitamin C. The dosage? Two 500 mg sustained-release vitamin C capsules four times a day for 14 days. The stressful situation? Many people’s nightmare — a five-minute oral presentation, similar to a job interview, given in front of an audience, before a microphone and a video camera, followed by five minutes of mental arithmetic performed out loud.
According to Stuart Brody, an American researcher at The Center for Psychosomatic and Psychobiological Research at the University of Trier, Germany, who, with colleagues there, conducted the double blind, placebo-controlled trial using 120 male and female subjects in the 20-40 age group, public speaking is a high-stress situation for many people. He told the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau: “Our study shows supplementing with sustained release vitamin C, at doses of 3 grams/day, blunts the rise in blood pressure and anxiety accompanying acute psychological stress. The amount of vitamin C in the blood among the subjects receiving the vitamin C supplements would be highly unlikely to obtain from the diet alone.”
Brody, now at the Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Tubingen, Germany, said: “Blood pressure just before the stress, and up to 40 minutes after, was significantly lower in the vitamin C group. The subjects on vitamin C also reported significantly less stress and anxiety after the stressful situation. We also found no greater incidence of side effects associated with the supplement, compared to the placebo.”
An abundance of research links stress with subsequent illness and assigns a contributory role to the development of high blood pressure. “We sought to determine whether vitamin C supplementation could protect subjects from the cardiovascular and psychological effects of stress,” said Brody. “Our results are limited in that the stress test we used cannot be reliably performed more than once on subjects. However, they do suggest that this form and dose of vitamin C may make stress more tolerable,” he concluded. GlaxoSmithKline supported the study and Dr. Brody. The company markets the vitamin C capsules used in the study (Cetebe® brand) in Europe.