Vitamin C has an important role for eye and possibly brain health, finds a new investigation. Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU) recently discovered the cells in the eye are bathed in the vitamin. In their research, scientists found high doses of vitamin C are necessary to keep the retina of the eye, and probably the brain, functioning properly.
Because nerve cells in the eye also communicate with the brain, the scientists speculate much more needs to be learned about the role of vitamin C for brain health.
Vitamin C might have a role for treating eye disease
In studies the scientists found removing vitamin C from cells in the retina of the eye caused them to stop functioning properly.
For their research, the scientists used goldfish retinas because of biological similarities with human eyes.
The finding means vitamin C might be protective for individuals at risk for glaucoma.
According to Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., a senior scientist at OHSU’s Vollum Institute and a co-author of the study.
“Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there’s likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realized before.”
Removing vitamin C from cells in the eye caused gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which are present throughout the brain, to stop functioning properly. The researchers note vitamin C stays in the brain longer than anywhere else in the body.
“Perhaps the brain is the last place you want to lose vitamin C,” von Gersdorff said. Lack of vitamin C that causes scurvy is also linked to depression. Von Gersdorff speculated it may be lack of vitamin C that causes depression associated with the disease.
Vitamin C is important for a variety of bodily functions, but until now researchers were unaware of the potential neuroprotective properties for eye function and possibly the brain.
Von Gersdorff said, “This is speculative and there is much to learn. But this research provides some important insights and will lead to the generation of new hypotheses and potential treatment strategies.”
GABA receptors in the eye and brain inhibit rapid firing of neurons. In the retina of the eye, GABA receptors send signals to other cells.
The OSHU researchers found vitamin C ‘bathes’ cells in the retina and is necessary for proper eye function. Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, vitamin C may be more important for brain health that previously known.