The role of vitamin C in stress-related disorders

J Nutr Biochem. 2020 Nov:85:108459. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2020.108459. Epub 2020 Jul 3.


Stress-related disorders, such as depression and anxiety, present marked deficits in behavioral and cognitive functions related to reward. These are highly prevalent disabling conditions with high social and economic costs. Furthermore, a significant percentage of affected individuals cannot benefit from clinical intervention, opening space for new treatments. Although the literature data have reported limited and variable results regarding oxidative stress-related endpoints in stress-related disorders, the possible neuroprotective effect of antioxidant compounds, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), emerges as a possible therapy strategy for psychiatric diseases. Here, we briefly present background information on biological activity of ascorbic acid, particularly functions related to the CNS homeostasis. Additionaly, we reviewed the available information on the role of ascorbic acid in stress-related diseases, focusing on supplementation and depletion studies. The vitamin C deficiency is widely associated to stress-related diseases. Although the efficacy of this vitamin in anxiety spectrum disorders is less stablished, several studies showed that ascorbic acid supplementation produces antidepressant effect and improves mood. Interestingly, the modulation of monoaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems is postulated as pivotal target for the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of this vitamin. Given that ascorbic acid supplementation produces fast therapeutic response with low toxicity and high tolerance, it can be considered as a putative candidate for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, especially those that are refractory to current treatments. Herein, the literature was reviewed considering the potential use of ascorbic acid as an adjuvant in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Keywords: Antidepressant; Anxiety; Ascorbic acid; Chronic stress; Depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy


  • Antioxidants
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Ascorbic Acid