Vitamin C is a micronutrient with many important physiological roles. It can function as a reducing agent, a free radical scavenger, and an enzyme cofactor. Much research has examined the potential of vitamin C supplements to enhance exercise capacity in trained athletes; however, little is known regarding the effects of vitamin C supplements on the promotion of leisure-time physical activity in the general population. This area deserves attention since 1/3 of Americans have below adequate vitamin C status, and since aversion to exercise, fatigue, and altered mood states are the earliest signs of poor vitamin C status. This study analyzed the effect of supplementing 500 mg twice daily of vitamin C on self-reported leisure-time activity levels and mood states in young men. Twenty-nine healthy, young men, aged 18-35 years, were stratified by age, BMI, smoking status, and plasma vitamin C concentrations and assigned to either a control (CON) or experimental group (VTC) for the 8-week randomized, double-blinded, parallel arm trial. Subjects were instructed to keep track of their leisure-time physical activity by filling out the validated Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire weekly for the entire study. In addition, subjects took the self-administered Profile of Mood States (POMS) at baseline, week 4, and week 8 to observe mood states. Plasma vitamin C concentrations were analyzed at the initial screening, week 4, and week 8 of the study. Plasma vitamin C concentrations significantly differed by group at week 4 and week 8. Furthermore, vitamin C supplementation significantly increased self-reported mild, moderate, and strenuous activity levels during the 8-week trial. Overall, total physical activity scores increased nearly 50% in the VTC group as compared to 18% in the CON group (p=0.001). However, mood states were not significantly impacted by vitamin C supplementation during the trial. This study provides the first experimental evidence that supplementing 500 mg of vitamin C twice daily can be effective in increasing leisure-time physical activity in healthy young men. This study, however, was unable to link improvements in physical activity rates to improved mood states. Since sedentary behaviors have been implicated in the rise of obesity in the U.S., further research should be conducted to substantiate the finding that vitamin C supplementation increases physical activity.
- Plasma vitamin C supplementation and physical activity in young men
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