Vitamin C – Can It Improve Acute Exam Anxiety?

Vitamin C – Can It Improve Acute Exam Anxiety?

InterClinical eNews September 2018, Issue 84

With HSC and university exams looming we are all on the lookout for anything safe and effective for short-term anxiety. Cumulative evidence from preclinical studies demonstrates that short-term administration of ascorbic acid can confer positive effects on mood. Given these findings, researchers at the Federal University of Catalina decided to investigate the effect of just a single dose of ascorbic acid on anxiety state and mood in university graduate students. (1)

Study Population
The researchers used a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial study design. The sample population comprised 144 university postgraduate students, consisting of 95% females and 5% male. The participants undertook two self-report questionnaires commonly used to measure mood and anxiety levels: These were the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS). The participants were then randomly assigned to one of two groups to receive either: two 500 mg ascorbic acid capsules or two identical-looking, placebo capsules. Researchers, participants and administrators were blinded as to group allocation. Two hours after administration of the capsules, the students were readministered the VAMS and STAI tests to ascertain if scores changed. (1) 

Study Results
At the close of the trial, those participants who scored high in trait anxiety had significant improvements in their mood compared to the control group, P = 0.04. Those who scored low-to-moderate on the tests for anxiety did not improve compared to the control group.

Study Conclusions 
The authors conclude that despite the small sample size, the results show heartening evidence that ascorbic acid may be an effective short-term aid for mood improvement in a non-clinical population, particularly an acute anti-anxiolytic effect. This may be especially useful given that pharmaceutical interventions exhibit a substantial lag time between ingestion and mood alteration as it’s acute effect could be beneficial in those experiencing short-term anxiety before events such as exams or interviews.

InterClinical Comment:
Vitamin C is an important cofactor in several neurotransmitter reactions which can alter mood. It plays a facilitatory role as a modulator of the cholinergic, catecholaminergic and glutamatergic systems of the body, which are intricately involved in mood modulation. (2) 


  1. Hansen SN, Tveden-Nyborg P, Lykkesfeldt J. Does vitamin C deficiency affect cognitive development and function? Nutrients 2014;6(9):3818-46
  2. Moritz B, Schwarzbold ML, Guarnieri R, Diaz AP, Rodrigues AL, Dafre AL. Effects of ascorbic acid on anxiety state and affect in a non‑clinical sample. Acta neurobiologiae experimentalis. 2017 Jan 1;77(4):362-72.

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