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Posted: October 07, 2008

Vitamin C Shown to Protect Elderly Men from Bone Loss

A high intake of vitamin C, delivered naturally through fruits and vegetables rather than supplements alone, may help reduce bone loss in elderly men, according to a new study. However, the same is not true for older women. 

A research team from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston reached the conclusion following a four-year study of bone density in 213 men and 393 women, with an average age of 75. Their goal was to determine what association exists between vitamin C and human bones. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin and reduces oxidative stress, which has a negative effect on all cells in the body. It is needed for normal bone development and for the formation of collagen, the fibrous protein part of bone, cartilage, and other structures.

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According to lead researcher Katherine L. Tucker, a senior scientist at the Jean Mayer center, her team tracked the diets of study participants for vitamin C and vitamin E intake, and evaluated the change in bone density in the hips, spine, and arm over the follow-up.

Men with the highest vitamin C intake had the least bone loss in the hip but a similar finding in women was not significant, Tucker reported in the Journal of Nutrition.

In fact, according to the report, the effect was more prominent in men at the highest level of intake, about 314 milligrams of vitamin C daily from a combination of supplements and food. The recommended intake is 75 milligrams daily for women and 90 milligrams daily for men.

"Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin and reduces oxidative stress, which has a negative effect on all cells in the body,” Tucker reported, adding: 

"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 resorption."

Tucker noted that previous studies had reached similar conclusions about fruits and vegetables, but weren't able to isolate vitamin C as one of the protective components. Vitamin C supplements also benefited some of the men in the study, but it is too soon to recommend the use of such supplements, she added.

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