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The human body responds to mental stress by releasing hormones called corticosteroids, triggering the body’s fight or flight response. Chronic activation of these hormones can impair immune function, increasing susceptibility to infection and disease. Findings from an early study in mice demonstrate that vitamin C mitigates the body’s stress response, thereby improving immunity.

The authors of the study immobilized mice for an hour every day for three weeks to induce stress. They also fed the mice 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily – roughly equivalent to several grams per day in humans. A control group of mice also received vitamin C but they were not subjected to stress.

The stressed mice that received large doses of vitamin C in their diets exhibited fewer signs of stress as evidenced by lower levels of corticosteroid hormones as well as other physical manifestations, such as weight loss. The mice also exhibited higher levels of IgG, the most abundant antibody in circulation, responsible for binding a broad selection of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi, to prevent infection. Interestingly, the non-stressed mice that received large doses of vitamin C exhibited even greater increases in IgG, suggesting that stress cancels out some of the beneficial effects of the vitamin.

These findings suggest that high dose vitamin C might improve immune function, especially during times of mental and physical stress.

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