because prevention is better than cure.

because prevention is better than cure.

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Vitamin C and other antioxidants

Vitamin C is a keystone nutrient for swinging the antioxidant equation in your favour for your brain.

It’s made in all living things, from animals to plants, including yeasts and fungi. It’s probably been the essential ‘exhaust recycler’ of all oxygen-based life forms. Production is even activated when oxidants are sensed. Animals also make more when stressed or exposed to viruses. We, and all other primates, are one of very few species who can’t make it. 

The first non-vitamin C-making animal to be discovered was the guinea pig. That’s how it became the ‘guinea pig’ for research, since, like us, it’s dependent every second of every day on vitamin C from diet. Bats, a few birds and the teleost family of fish have also lost the ability to make vitamin C. 

You’ll see in this figure below and the short video that vitamin C disarms water-based oxidants, such as smoke, and vitamin E disarms fat-based oxidants such as the burnt fat found in fried food.

Then other key antioxidant team players help to neutralize the reactive oxidants that damage our brain and body. 

Your best bet is probably to both eat a diet with a broad spectrum of antioxidants and to supplement them. The older you are, the more you are likely to need. 

Fig 21. Antioxidants are team players 

Key antioxidants are: 
  • Vitamins A, C and E – associated with reducing Alzheimer’s risk 
  • Lipoic acid [1] – protects the memory-friendly neurotransmitter acetylcholine and dampens down brain oxidation and inflammation 
  • Glutathione [2] or N-acetylcysteine (NAC) [3] protects the brain and improves methylation, thus having potential in dementia prevention. 
  • Co-enzyme Q10 – protects the mitochondria in the brain from oxidative stress [4]
  • Resveratrol – has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties and prevents hippocampal brain damage. [5] 

It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to supplement one without the others. Individually, their impact on brain health may be less than when combined. A study of 4,740 elderly residents of Cache County, Utah, found that those supplementing both vitamin E and C cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by two-thirds. Taking either cut risk by a quarter. [6] 

A comprehensive meta-analysis of all studies on factors that could prevent Alzheimer’s by one of our Scientific Advisory Board members, Professor Jin Tai Yu of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, shows that ‘either a high vitamin E or C intake showed a trend of attenuating risk by about 26 per cent’, making these nutrients ‘grade 1’ top level prevention factors.[7]

Inadequate vitamin C status in otherwise healthy young adults is related to a low level of mental vitality. In a randomised controlled trial vitamin C supplementation effectively increased work motivation and attentional focus and contributed to better performance on cognitive tasks requiring sustained attention.[8]

All those listed above – vitamins C, E, glutathione and N- acetylcysteine, co-enzyme Q10 and resveratrol – work together and are often found in combined antioxidant supplement formulas.


1. A. Maczurek, et al., ‘Lipoic acid as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease’, Advance Drug Delivery Review, 2008;60(13-14):1463-70

2. Pocernich CB, Butterfield DA. Elevation of glutathione as a therapeutic strategy in Alzheimer disease. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May;1822(5):625-30. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Oct 12. PMID: 22015471; PMCID: PMC3277671.

3.. Hara Y, McKeehan N, Dacks PA, Fillit HM. Evaluation of the Neuroprotective Potential of N-Acetylcysteine for Prevention and Treatment of Cognitive Aging and Dementia. J Prev Alzheimers Dis. 2017;4(3):201-206. doi: 10.14283/jpad.2017.22. PMID: 29182711.

4.. Yang X, Zhang Y, Xu H, Luo X, Yu J, Liu J, Chang RC. Neuroprotection of Coenzyme Q10 in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Curr Top Med Chem. 2016;16(8):858-66. doi: 10.2174/1568026615666150827095252. PMID: 26311425.

5.. Gomes BAQ, Silva JPB, Romeiro CFR, Dos Santos SM, Rodrigues CA, Gonçalves PR, Sakai JT, Mendes PFS, Varela ELP, Monteiro MC. Neuroprotective Mechanisms of Resveratrol in Alzheimer’s Disease: Role of SIRT1. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018 Oct 30;2018:8152373. doi: 10.1155/2018/8152373. PMID: 30510627; PMCID: PMC6232815.

6. Basambombo LL, Carmichael PH, Côté S, Laurin D. Use of Vitamin E and C Supplements for the Prevention of Cognitive Decline. Ann Pharmacother. 2017 Feb;51(2):118-124. doi: 10.1177/1060028016673072. Epub 2016 Oct 5. PMID: 27708183.

7. Yu JT, Xu W, Tan CC, Andrieu S, Suckling J, Evangelou E, Pan A, Zhang C, Jia J, Feng L, Kua EH, Wang YJ, Wang HF, Tan MS, Li JQ, Hou XH, Wan Y, Tan L, Mok V, Tan L, Dong Q, Touchon J, Gauthier S, Aisen PS, Vellas B. Evidence-based prevention of Alzheimer’s disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of 243 observational prospective studies and 153 randomised controlled trials. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Nov;91(11):1201-1209. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2019-321913. Epub 2020 Jul 20. PMID: 32690803; PMCID: PMC7569385.

8. Sim M, Hong S, Jung S, Kim JS, Goo YT, Chun WY, Shin DM. Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Feb;61(1):447-459. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02656-3. Epub 2021 Sep 2. PMID: 34476568; PMCID: PMC8783887.