Vitamin C: Good for Your Bones
Vitamin C linked to Reduced Bone Loss in Older Men
Sept. 19, 2008 -- A high intake of vitamin C may help reduce bone loss, at
least in elderly men, according to a new study.
"Vitamin C had an effect on the [bone density of] hips in men, but it
didn't have an effect on women," says Katherine L. Tucker, PhD, a senior
scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University and senior author of the study. It is published in the
Journal of Nutrition.
Vitamin C and Bones: Background
For years, researchers have known that vitamin C is needed for normal bone
development and for the formation of collagen, the fibrous protein part of
bone, cartilage, and other structures.
But few studies have looked at the relationship between vitamin C intake
from food and supplements and bone density, Tucker says.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin and reduces oxidative stress, which has
a negative effect on all cells in the body, she says. "Antioxidants are
needed to protect against oxidative stress, therefore protecting against
inflammation. Inflammation drives bone resorption, which is basically taking
calcium away from the bones. Vitamin C, theoretically, should help slow that
Vitamin C and Bones: Study Detail
Tucker and her colleagues evaluated the bone density of 213 men and 393
women, average age 75 at the start, over a four-year period to see what
association their vitamin C intake had with their bones.
The participants were part of the long-running Framingham Osteoporosis
study. The researchers looked at a diet questionnaire given to participants in
1988 or 1989 and again four years later. They evaluated the change in bone
density in the hips, spine, and arm over the follow-up. Besides looking at
their vitamin C and vitamin E intake, they took into account whether
participants smoked and whether the women were on hormone replacement
Vitamin C and Bones: Study Results
Men with the highest vitamin C intake had the least bone loss in the hip. A
similar finding in women was not significant, Tucker says.
The effect became most significant, she says, at the highest level, about
314 milligrams of vitamin C daily from supplements and food. The recommended
intake is 75 milligrams daily for women and 90 milligrams daily for men.
"At one hip site [of two measured], for example, men in the highest
intake group, who took in 314 milligrams of vitamin C a day in food and
supplements but had low calcium intake, did not lose bone density on
average," she says, ''whereas those in the lowest group, who took in 106
milligrams, lost 5.6% of their bone."
"The only significant effects on bone loss were found in men who were
low in vitamin E or calcium," she says.
Why no effect was not seen in women is complicated, Tucker says. The effects
of vitamin C may interact with estrogen use, calcium, and vitamin E, she