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Vitamin C and Bone Fractures

April 8, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A very dangerous complication that accompanies “normal” aging is the widely accepted loss of bone mineral density. The advice that’s often given to counter this process is to simply take an adequate amount of calcium and a little vitamin D for good measure. Both of these nutrients are essential for the promotion of a healthy skeletal system. But if those are the only resources you’re utilizing, then you’re missing part of the picture.

The Anatomy of Bones

Antioxidants for Faster Healing and Fewer Breaks

A brand new study published in the journal Osteoporosis International provides us with a valuable tool in the battle against age-related bone fractures. Here’s how the study was set up:

  • Nearly 600 senior women and 360 senior men with an average age of 75 filled out food frequency questionnaires (FFQ).
  • The researchers analyzed the FFQs to determine individual vitamin C consumption from both food and supplements.
  • Over the course of the next 17 years these same men and women were followed to determine which of them suffered from hip and other osteoporotic fractures.

Based on the data collected a clear image emerged about the role that vitamin C appears to play in the maintenance of bone integrity.

  • The volunteers who ingested the highest total amount of vitamin C exhibited a lower risk of hip fractures and non-vertebral fractures, when compared to those consuming the lowest amount of vitamin C.
  • In addition, the volunteers who used supplemental vitamin C had a significantly decreased risk of the same types of fractures in comparison to those not using supplements.

These findings led the researchers to conclude that, “Dietary vitamin C intake was not associated with fracture risk”. It was only the vitamin C supplements that showed a protective effect in the bone health of the older adults.

How could this be? My hunch is that it’s probably a question of dosage. A healthy diet rarely provides more than a few hundred milligrams of vitamin C. But for those who use vitamin C supplements it’s not uncommon to take dosages that reach well into the thousand milligram ballpark.

Fruits, Veggies and Carotenoids

Before we jump to any conclusions and rule out the role that diet has on bone health, let’s first consider another piece of recent research. In January of 2009, a different trial found that certain carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin may be responsible for protecting bone density in a large group of senior citizens. These antioxidants are found as the colorful components of many common fruits and vegetables.

Below, I’m including some additional evidence that supports the proposed link between vitamin C and improved bone status.

  • A study that appeared in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Sports Sciences found that 8 weeks worth of antioxidant supplementation (500 mg of vitamin C and 100 mg of vitamin E) and aerobic exercise resulted in a more than 40% increase in vitamin D. That’s right, vitamin D! The authors of the study offered the following observations, “8 weeks of combined antioxidant supplementation and aerobic training modified vitamin D metabolism and parathyroid hormone concentration. These adaptations might counterbalance the unfavorable hormonal profile frequently observed in the elderly that predisposes them to accentuated age-related bone loss.”
The Alveolar Bone
  • The alveolar bone is the structure in the jaw which supports the roots of our teeth. A 2007 study conducted on rats found that vitamin C supplementation could help protect this bone from the damage associated with an unhealthful diet. The researchers concluded that vitamin C countered oxidative damage that would normally break down the bone structure. This is relevant because it sheds light on how vitamin C and other antioxidants may support bones of all kinds.
  • An important aspect of bone health is the promotion of fracture healing once an injury has occurred. This is especially important in our elder population because of a lengthier recovery time and possible complications. That’s why it’s encouraging to note that another trial from 2007 hints at the applicability of vitamin C in healing older bones. Once again, the experiment was conducted in a rat model. However the results, which indicated that vitamin C improved bone healing, were quite dramatic. Because of this, the researchers then urged for the initiation of a human study.

Given the many known benefits of vitamin C and both dietary and supplemental antioxidants, it may be worth considering the role that they may play in the health of your own skeletal system. As always, diet should be your number one source of these valuable nutrients and phytochemicals. But utilizing a certain degree of supplementation may help to fill any nutritional gaps in your diet and, at the same time, optimize the overall potential of these valuable substances.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP


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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Nutrition, Women's Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Vitamin C and Bone Fractures”

  1. L Ishimoto Says:

    Here is a link describing a scientific basis for the described connection between vitamin C and bone mineral density:

    http://www.bcm.edu/news/item.cfm?newsID=2218

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you so much for posting that link! Fascinating information!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Cynthia Says:

    Hello JP,
    The aricle is quite interesting about Osteoporosis. I used to work with an MD who maintained that if women did not have a lot of calcium before age 35 yrs. It could not be replaced after that.

    I must say I always had a diet rich in calcium, milk, cheese, yogurt etc. and Vit C.

    I have an excellent bone density, I also gave up soda many years ago. My sister has osteoporosis and is 4 yrs younger. Disliked milk, OJ, yogurt,etc.

    Today she is only my height 5’1″ 1/2 was 5’6″ she is pathetic!

    Long story short, have you heard the “before 35 theory”

    It sure helped me.

    I will be interested in your answer.

    Thanks JP

    Stay well!

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    This is probably what the “before 35 theory” is based on:

    “In females, skeletal growth continues until approximately age 20, but bone mineral content may accrue until age 35.”

    Source: http://www.jacn.org/content/23/1/43.full

    Having said that, I think it’s never too late to improve skeletal health – even in those who lacked adequate/optimal calcium in their formative years.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. JP Says:

    Updated 11/05/17:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00198-017-4284-9

    Osteoporos Int. 2017 Nov 3.

    Dietary vitamin C intake and the risk of hip fracture: a dose-response meta-analysis.

    The meta-analysis suggested that dietary vitamin C was statistically inversely associated with the risk of hip fracture (overall OR = 0.73, 95% CI = 0.55-0.97, I 2 = 69.1%) and with the increase of 50 mg/day vitamin C intake, the risk of hip fracture will reduce by 5% (OR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.91-1.00, P = 0.05).

    INTRODUCTION: Previous studies had inconsistent findings regarding the association between vitamin C intake and the risk of hip fracture. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the association of dietary vitamin C intake and the risk of hip fracture.

    METHODS: Relevant studies were identified by searching PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science up to December 2016. Additional articles were identified from reviewing the reference lists of relevant articles. The summary relative risks (RRs) or odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by random effects model. Funnel plot and Egger’s test were used to test publication bias.

    RESULTS: The total six articles containing 7908 controls and 2899 cases of hip fracture were included in this meta-analysis. By comparing the highest versus the lowest categories of vitamin C intake, we found that dietary vitamin C was statistically correlated with the risk of hip fracture [overall OR = 0.73, 95% CI = 0.55-0.97, I 2 = 69.1%]. A linear dose-response association showed that the increase with vitamin C intake of 50 mg/day statistically reduced by 5% (OR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.91-1.00, P = 0.05) the risk of hip fracture.

    CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, the results of current meta-analysis strongly support that increasing dietary vitamin C intake can decrease the risk of hip fracture. In order to verify the association of vitamin C intake and hip fracture risk, further well-designed largely randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are needed.

    Be well!

    JP

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