You know vitamin C is an important nutrient but you not know how valuable it is for bone health. I first learned about the importance of vitamin C in high school history when we read about its use by European seafaring explorers to fight the dangers of “scurvy.” Of course, at that point in my life I was more interested in getting to my after-school activities on time than I was in learning more about the health benefits of vitamin C.
Building bone density
• Higher intake of vitamin C has been associated with a lower rate of bone loss as we age. Equally, many studies report that individuals with osteoporosis have lower levels of vitamin C.
• The bone benefits of vitamin C appear to be particularly striking for women who smoke or are on hormone replacement therapy.
• In animal studies, vitamin C helped prevent the bone loss associated with ovary removal. What’s most interesting about this finding is that the researchers suggest that vitamin C could prevent “low turnover osteoporosis” — the type of bone loss associated with ovary removal. Bone turnover involves the on-going process by which old bone is broken and new bone formed. Low bone turnover, means low bone renewal.
Reducing fracture risk
Higher intake of vitamin C is also associated with a reduced risk of fracture, while low levels of ascorbic acid have been reported in patients experiencing hip fracture. For example, in the 15-year Framingham Osteoporosis Study, participants with the highest intake of total vitamin C from diet and/ or supplements had significantly fewer fractures compared to those with the lowest vitamin C intake.
Speeding fracture healing
As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient, vitamin C aids in fracture healing. In both human and animal studies, vitamin C supplementation is consistently found to speed fracture healing. It also improves the mechanical resistance of the new tissue that grows for bone healing, called the fracture callus. In the case of wrist fracture, supplementing with vitamin C helps prevent the post-fracture condition known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is an extremely painful inflammatory process associated with suboptimal fracture healing.
With all of these benefits, I recommend that you use vitamin C daily, along with other key antioxidants found in my Better Bones products. You can learn more about vitamin C and other essential nutrients for optimal bone health in my article 20 key bone-building nutrients.
Vitamin C and Bone Mineral Density
Sugiura M. “Dietary patterns of antioxidant vitamin and carotenoid intake associated with bone mineral density: findings from post-menopausal Japanese female subjects” Osteoporosis Int. 2011.
Sahni S., Hannan M., Gagnon D et al. “High vitamin C intake is associated with lower 4-year bone loss in elderly men” Journal of Nutrition 2008.
Wolf RL, Cauley JA, Pettinger M, Jackson R, Lecroix A, et al. Lack of a relation between vitamin and mineral anti-oxidants and bone mineral density: results from the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Ntr 2005. Vol 82. Pp. 581-588.
Zhu LL., Cao J, Sun M, et al. “Vitamin C prevents hypogonadal bone loss” PLos One. 2012. Vol. 10. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047058 Chuin, A. et al., “Effects of antioxidants combined to resistance training on BMD in elderly women: a pilot study,” Osteoporosis International, published online: 20 Nov., 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19020919.
Vitamin C Fracture Risk
Sahanis S., et al. “Protective effect of total and supplemental vitamin C intake on the risk of hip fracture” Osteoporosis Int. 2009. Vol 20. Pp 1853-1861.
Falch JA, Mowe M, Bohmer T. “Low levels of serum ascorbic acid in elderly patients with hip fracture” Scand J Clin Lab Invest. May 1998. Vol 58. No. 3. Pp. 225-228.
Vitamin C and Fracture Healing
Sheweita S.A. and Khoshhal K.I. “Calcium metabolism and oxidative stress in bone fractures: role of antioxidants” Current Drug Metabolism. August 2007. Pp. 519-525.
Alcantara-Martos T. et al. “Effect of vitamin C on fracture healing in elderly osteogenic disorder Shionogi Rats” J Bone and Joint Surg. December 2007. Vol 89-B. No. 3. Pp. 402-407.
Shah As, et al. “Use of oral vitamin C after fractures of the distal radius” J Hand Surg. November 2009. Vol 34A. No. 9. Pp. 1736-1738.