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Vitamin C & Bone Health

by
author image Fred Schubert
Fred Schubert is a retired physician with both writing and teaching experience during his professional career, reaching back to 1983. Since 2009 he has been writing periodic articles on general science for his local newspaper, "The Dalles Chronicle." Schubert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and a M.D. from the Oregon Health Sciences University.
Vitamin C & Bone Health
A glass of orange juice next to oranges. Photo Credit AlonsoAguilar/iStock/Getty Images

Maintaining healthy bones depends on frequent physical activity, good nutrition and regular medical check-ups. Calcium and vitamin D are widely recognized critical elements for bone health, but vitamin C can play an important role as well. Increasing evidence supports vitamin C’s protective role in building strong bones and preventing fractures.

Bone Health

As you age, the risk of bone fractures and other complications of osteoporosis rise. Good bone health requires a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, which includes fruits and vegetables that supply vitamin C as well. The U.S. Surgeon General also recommends at least 30 minutes a day of weight-bearing exercise to strengthen muscles, improve balance and coordination. Maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol use will also help to preserve bone mass and reduce your risk of fractures over the years.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins, meaning your body cannot produce the vitamin and it must be obtained from food. Well known as an anti-oxidant, vitamin C also contributes to a healthy immune system, helps in the absorption of iron and is important in the synthesis of numerous proteins, including collagen. The recommended dietary intake for teens and adults ranges from 65 mg to 90 mg a day, with an extra 35 mg required if you smoke, according to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red and green peppers, broccoli, potatoes and tomatoes. Most people living in the United States get adequate vitamin C from dietary sources alone, although a deficiency can occur in association with smoking, malnutrition, malabsorption disorders or advanced kidney disease.

Vitamin C and Bone Formation

Your bones have a complex mix of strength and rigidity, composed of hard calcium compounds deposited on a framework of connective tissue rich in collagen. Vitamin C is required for the normal production of collagen and optimal functioning of the osteoblast cells responsible for making new hard bone, according to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Maintaining adequate bone mass and strength in your skeleton involves an ongoing process of calcium removal and replacement in response to exercise and weight bearing. This process requires dependable sources of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C in your diet.

Osteoporosis and Vitamin C

Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease affecting adults, characterized by decreased bone formation and loss of bone mass that can result in fractures. Contributing causes of osteoporosis include lack of physical activity, malnutrition with low vitamin D and calcium intake, lack of vitamin C to support osteoblast activity, hormonal changes with low estrogen levels and the normal age-related decrease in new bone formation. Evidence for a protective role of vitamin C against osteoporosis is increasing, including a recent study by Shivani Sahni, et al. in the Nov 2009 issue of “Osteoporosis International” that found fewer hip and other non-spinal fractures occurred in individuals with the highest total vitamin C levels. Your health care provider can offer detailed information and discuss steps you can take to help to maintain healthy bones.

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