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Q: Cortisol - Vitamin C Connection ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Cortisol - Vitamin C Connection
Category: Health
Asked by: jat-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 04 Sep 2003 15:04 PDT
Expires: 04 Oct 2003 15:04 PDT
Question ID: 252375
There's no doubt in my mind that there is a link between Vitamin C and
Cortisol.  What I'm wondering is whether Vit C is involved in somehow
reducing Cortisol after incidents of stress.  Vit C is more plentiful
in the adrenal glands than anywhere else in the body.  I assume the C
is depleted during stress.  Why? What's the connection here?
Subject: Re: Cortisol - Vitamin C Connection
Answered By: byrd-ga on 04 Sep 2003 19:07 PDT
Hello jat,

You will probably not be surprised to learn that you are right.  Yes,
there is indeed a connection between Vitamin C, cortisol and stress. 
Furthermore, as you surmise, Vitamin C does reduce the excess cortisol
in the system after a stressful incident, or during periods of
prolonged stress.   Nor is this merely conjecture, but well-documented
knowledge, supported by a great deal of scientific research and many

To understand this connection, it might be well to begin with the role
that cortisol plays in the body.  Cortisol is, as you said, secreted
by the adrenal glands, which are located atop the kidneys.  They are
made up of an outer cortex, which secretes steroids such as cortisol,
and an inner medulla, which secretes other hormones, such as
adrenalin.  As a steroid, cortisol is necessary in normal amounts for
the proper functioning of the body.
A fact sheet from Prince Henry Institute of Medical Research in
Australia says that “Cortisol has diverse important effects on all
parts of the body including:

	mood and wellbeing 
	blood vessels and blood pressure 
	muscles and skin 
	immune cells and inflammation 
	stomach and bowel function 

In stress situations, cortisol maintains blood pressure and limits
inappropriate inflammation.”  ( )

However, the article also goes on to state that the effects of excess
cortisol, which include weight gain, suppressed immune function, high
blood pressure and even diabetes, become destructive rather than

Where vitamin C comes in is that the adrenal glands use it in order to
produce various hormones.  According to this technical monograph from
“Physician Formulated Rx Vitamins (with references), “The adrenal
cortex contains a large quantity of vitamin C. However these stores of
vitamin C can be rapidly depleted during times of stress, and when
ACTH is released from the pituitary (1). In animal studies marginal
vitamin C deficiencies have been found to cause an elevation of
cortisol levels (12). As previously mentioned chronic elevation of
cortisol could lead to many detrimental health conditions. Vitamin C
is vital for the synthesis of epinephrine from the amino acid
tyrosine. Epinephrine is secreted by the adrenal medulla in response
to a stressor. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are responsible for our
fight or flight response to a stressful situation. Epinephrine also
plays a role in blood pressure regulation by acting as part of an
auxiliary electron transport system for the last step of aldosterone
synthesis (13, 14). Aldosterone is a hormone involved in regulating
blood pressure, blood pH and blood volume. Supplementing with vitamin
C while under stress has been shown to have numerous beneficial
effects (15-17) . “  ( )

So, if depletion of vitamin C causes excess production of cortisol,
then it stands to reason that supplementation of vitamin C can reduce
excess cortisol production and its associated destructive effects. 
This connection between stress and cortisol, and vitamin C, has been
the focus of a great deal of research.

Dr. Hans Selye, a Canadian doctor and researcher, the founder of the
International Institute of Stress at the University of Montreal, is
widely regarded as the pioneer in the field of stress studies, or the
“father of modern stress research.  He was the first to document the
relationship of stress to cortisol excess and vitamin C in an article
he published in the British Journal, “Nature” in 1936.   In it he
“reported that the adrenal glands contain the highest concentration in
the body of vitamin C. The adrenal glands make cortisol from vitamin
C. When a person is under stress, the adrenal glands make tremendous
amounts of cortisol and the concentration of vitamin C in them drops.”
 ( )

Dr. Linus Pauling, recipient of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (as
well as the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize), is perhaps the best-known
researcher into the effects of Vitamin C on the human body, and a
strong proponent of its use as both a preventative and curative.  The
Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon reported here: on some new research
on vitamin C.  Among other experiments was one studying stress in
rats, with the result that “.... after the rats were exposed to
stressful situation, those that received vitamin C had ....  less
corticosterone, an adrenal hormone related to cortisol, which, in
humans, has been associated with heart disease when chronically
overproduced. Since rats synthesize vitamin C, it is difficult to
extrapolate these results to humans, but Dr. Campbell estimated that
the amount of supplemental vitamin C that produced these beneficial
effects in rats corresponds to an intake of several grams in humans.
These results offer more support to the concept that the need for
vitamin C increases during stress.”

In summary then, your conviction of a link between vitamin C and
cortisol, along with your other assumptions, is absolutely correct. 
Stress causes excess cortisol production, which depletes vitamin C. 
Vitamin C supplementation in turn reduces excess cortisol, which in
turn ameliorates its destructive effects and helps to counteract the
negative aspects of stress.

Here are some links to more information you might like to pursue:

What does cortisol do? (pg. 57)

“Cortisol: The Stress or Death Hormone:”

Reports on recent research and studies:

“The Nature of Stress” by Hans Selye: 

Selye and Stress (question and answer article):

“Adaptation to Stress and Natural Therapies:”

“Adrenal Stress: Measuring and Treating:”

Very detailed discussion of the connection between the adrenal glands
and stress:

Detailed abstracts of studies involving Vitamin C.  To find those
connected with cortisol, use your browser “edit” “find” feature on the
term “cortisol:”

“Adrenal Maladaptation Syndrome: A Sweet Solution For Coping With

I do hope this information has been helpful to you.  If there is
anything you don’t understand, please use the “Request Clarification”
feature to ask before rating and closing your question so I can be
sure I’ve given you what you’re looking for by way of information on
the scientifically documented connected between stress, cortisol and
vitamin C.  It’s a subject I have a great interest in myself, so I
thank you for the opportunity to research this.

Best regards,

Search terms used:

“vitamin c” cortisol stress
“what does cortisol do” OR “effect of cortisol”
“Hans Selye” stress cortisol “vitamin c”
“linus pauling” “vitamin c” cortisol stress
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