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Stressed out? Vitamin C is possibly the perfect chill pill

CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore reports on vitamin C and stress study findings.
Windows Media 28K 80K

August 23, 1999
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EDT (1703 GMT)

By Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Heading to another stressful day at the office? Consider pouring an extra glass of orange juice in the morning. Vitamin C may help the body manage stress more effectively, scientists said this week.

"We found that giving rats large doses of vitamin C essentially abolished the secretion of stress hormones," said P. Samuel Campbell of the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Test rodents that did not receive the vitamin experienced three times the level of stress hormones, according to Campbell and other researchers, who presented their findings at the American Chemical Society conference in New Orleans.

In addition to fighting stress, vitamin C helped boost the body's natural defenses, they said.

"We think that from what we see, vitamin C may in fact provide for better immune system function under stress so individuals are better able to combat illness," Campbell said.

While the test subjects were rats, researchers say they can apply the findings to humans.

"There are reports that ultramarathon runners having vitamin C have a lower incidence of upper respiratory infection than those not taking vitamin C; the same thing with military recruits responding to basic training," Campbell said.

One 8-ounce glass of orange juice provides 97 milligrams of vitamin C. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance ranges from 50 to 60 milligrams for adults.

But some nutrition researchers think that benchmark is outdated. A higher daily dose is required to reap the greatest medical benefits, they say. Most experts recommend at least 200 mg per day.

"The RDAs ... were established to prevent deficiencies, but as we are getting more research, there is a new philosophy -- that is, what we can do to promote health," said Chris Rosenbloom of Georgia State University.

Experts warn not to overdo it. For some, an excessive use of vitamin C can backfire.

"People who have kidney stones should not take excess vitamin C, because vitamin C is converted to a compound which can form stones," Rosenbloom explained.

Mind-body medicine for stress
June 2, 1999
Stress, coping and balance
June 1, 1999
Research links mental stress, more deaths from heart disease
March 9, 1999

American Chemical Society
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