Higher fruit and vegetable intake has been associated with improved mood, greater vitality, and lower stress. Although the nutrients driving these benefits are not specifically identified, one potentially important micronutrient is vitamin C, an important co-factor for the production of peptide hormones, carnitine and neurotransmitters that are involved in regulation of physical energy and mood. The aim of our study was to investigate the cross-sectional relationship between blood plasma vitamin C status and mood, vitality and perceived stress. A sample of 419 university students (aged 18 to 35; 67.8% female) of various ethnicities (49.2% European, 16.2% East Asian, 8.1% Southeast/Other Asian, 9.1% Māori/Pasifika, 11.5% Other) provided a fasting blood sample to determine vitamin C status and completed psychological measures consisting of the Profile of Mood States Short Form (POMS-SF), the vitality subscale of the Rand 36-Item Short Form (SF-36), and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Participants were screened for prescription medication, smoking history, vitamin C supplementation, fruit/juice and vegetable consumption, kiwifruit allergies, excessive alcohol consumption and serious health issues, and provided age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status information, which served as covariates. There were no significant associations between vitamin C status and the psychological measures for the sample overall. However, associations varied by ethnicity. Among Māori/Pasifika participants, higher vitamin C was associated with greater vitality and lower stress, whereas among Southeast Asian participants, higher vitamin C was associated with greater confusion on the POMS-SF subscale. These novel findings demonstrate potential ethnicity-linked differences in the relationship between vitamin C and mental states. Further research is required to determine whether genetic variation or cultural factors are driving these ethnicity differences.
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