Consumption of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables has been associated with greater feelings of vitality. However, these associations have rarely been tested in experimental trials. The aim of the current study was to test the effects of eating a vitamin C-rich food (kiwifruit) on subjective vitality and whether effects are driven by vitamin C. Young adults (n = 167, 61.1% female, aged 18–35 years) with plasma vitamin C < 40 µmol/L were allocated to three intervention conditions: kiwifruit (2 SunGold™ kiwifruit/day), vitamin C (250 mg tablet/day), placebo (1 tablet/day). The trial consisted of a two-week lead-in, four-week intervention, and two-week washout. Plasma vitamin C and vitality questionnaires (total mood disturbance, fatigue, and well-being) were measured fortnightly. Self-reported sleep quality and physical activity were measured every second day through smartphone surveys. Nutritional confounds were assessed using a three-day food diary during each study phase. Plasma vitamin C reached saturation levels within two weeks for the kiwifruit and vitamin C groups. Participants consuming kiwifruit showed a trend of improvement in mood disturbance, significantly decreased fatigue, and significantly improved well-being after two weeks of the intervention. Improvements in well-being remained elevated through washout. Consumption of vitamin C tablets alone was associated with improved well-being after two weeks, and additionally improved mood and fatigue for participants with consistently low vitamin C levels during lead-in. Diet records showed that participants consuming kiwifruit reduced their fat intake during the intervention period. Intervention effects remained significant when adjusting for condition allocation groupings, age, and ethnicity, and were not explained by sleep quality, physical activity, BMI, or other dietary patterns, including fat intake. There were no changes in plasma vitamin C status or vitality in the placebo group. Whole-food consumption of kiwifruit was associated with improved subjective vitality in adults with low vitamin C status. Similar, but not identical changes were found for vitamin C tablets, suggesting that additional properties of kiwifruit may contribute to improved vitality.
Keywords: Vitamin C status; energy; kiwifruit; mood; well-being.