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Vitamin C May Fight Bone Loss, Osteoporosis

Vitamin C for bone loss, osteoporosis

If you take vitamin C to help fight symptoms of cold and flu, you may be doing your bones a favor at the same time. A new study from Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggests this popular vitamin can fight bone loss that leads to osteoporosis, which affects millions of men and women.

Can you build bone with vitamin C?

The nutrients typically associated with building and maintaining strong bones are vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, along with boron, potassium, phosphorus, iron, fluoride, manganese, copper, and zinc. These ingredients, along with other factors such as regular weight-bearing exercise and not smoking, support and nurture bone health.

Vitamin C has also been recognized as playing a role in bone health, but this new study is the first time an animal model has shown that the vitamin can actively protect the body against development of osteoporosis. More specifically, the study results showed that large doses of vitamin C, when given to mice, "actively stimulate bone formation to protect the skeleton," according to head researcher Mone Zaidi, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Mount Sinai Bone Program.

Zaidi also noted that vitamin C is able to aggressively promote bone formation "by inducing osteoblasts, or premature bone cells, to differentiate into mature, mineralizing specialty cells." To come to this conclusion, the researchers conducted the following experiment.

Three groups of mice were evaluated: two groups that had had their ovaries removed (an ovariectomy, which causes a reduction in bone density) and one group of control mice with intact ovaries. One group of mice that had had an ovariectomy was given high doses of vitamin C for eight weeks.

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Bone mineral density was measured in all the mice, and this is what the researchers discovered:

  • Mice that had had their ovaries removed and not given vitamin C had a much lower bone mineral density that did the control mice
  • Mice with an ovariectomy and given vitamin C had about the same bone mineral density as did control mice
  • The results suggest that vitamin C can prevent bone mineral density loss

Why this study is important
One reason this latest finding is important is that bone loss and osteoporosis is a significant health problem associated with risk of fracture, loss of quality of life, and death. About 10 million women and men have osteoporosis in the United States, and another 34 million have low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Prevention of these bone problems needs to start when people are young, as 85 percent of bone mass is acquired by females by age 18 and by males by age 20.

Given that 24 percent of hip fracture patients age 50 or older die during the first year of their fracture and that osteoporosis-related fractures are a financial burden that keeps rising, hitting an estimated $25 billion by 2025, there is a pressing need for effective and inexpensive preventive and treatment strategies for bone loss and osteoporosis.

Dr. Zaidi explained that if their findings are eventually shown to apply to osteoporosis in people, the information concerning use of vitamin C to help prevent bone loss "could be ultimately useful to developing nations where osteoporosis is prevalent and standard medications are sparse and expensive."

Mount Sinai School of Medicine
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Zhu L-L et al. Vitamin C prevents hypogonadal bone loss. PLoS ONE 2012; 7(10): e47058

Image: Wikimedia Commons