News - Researchers uncover new nerve benefits for vitamin C
Traditionally used to aid immunity, scientists have recently discovered that one of the nutrition industry’s biggest sellers – vitamin C – may also be important for eye and brain health.
The “surprising discovery” by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University indicates that vitamin C may be needed for correct functioning of the retinal cells at the back of the eye. In order for retinal cells to function properly, “we found that cells need to be 'bathed' in relatively high doses of vitamin C, inside and out”, explained Henrique von Gersdorff, PhD, a co-author of the study. “Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there's likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realised before.”
According to the researchers, the benefits of vitamin C revolve around special receptors in the eye and brain called GABA-type receptors. These modulate the rapid communication between brain cells by acting as a ‘brake’, stopping neurones in the brain from getting overexcited. When vitamin C is no longer present, these receptors stopped functioning properly.
The researchers postulated that their new findings may also have implications for other diseases that are caused by malfunctioning nerve cells in the retina and brain, such as glaucoma and epilepsy, and may even help explain why vitamin C deficiency can lead to depression.
Calero CI et al. Allosteric Modulation of Retinal GABA Receptors by Ascorbic Acid. J Neurosci. 2011 Jun 29;31(26):9672-82.