This Unexpected Vitamin Can Keep Your Bones Strong for Years to Come

Elizabeth Millard
·3 mins read
Photo credit: fcafotodigital - Getty Images
Photo credit: fcafotodigital - Getty Images

From Bicycling

  • According to new research in the journal Nutrients, consuming enough vitamin C can have a beneficial effect on your bone health, and even prevent osteoporosis.

  • Load up on these vitamin C-rich foods to get the benefits: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red peppers, tomatoes, kiwi, lemons, strawberries, and oranges.

In order to ride your best for years to come, your bones need to be healthy and strong. Calcium and vitamin D stand out as micronutrients known for keeping your bones in top shape—and especially preventing osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become weak and brittle.

But a review in the journal Nutrients suggests it may be time to give vitamin C some love, too.

Researchers looked at studies published between the years 2000 and 2020 related to vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), antioxidants, bone growth and reabsorption, osteoporosis, and bone loss, reviewing 66 studies total.

They found that while more research needs to be done, vitamin C does seem to have a beneficial effect on bone growth and reabsorption, and that could help prevent osteoporosis.

One important note is that researchers found ascorbic acid on its own can’t replace the documented benefits of estrogen replacement therapy and calcium supplements, but it does seem to have a complementary effect.

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That’s likely because vitamin C is an important antioxidant and is involved in the function and maintenance of several cells in the body, according to Kacie Vavrek, R.D., a sports dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

She told Runner’s World that previous research suggests the vitamin has a positive effect on bone formation by stimulating the protein collagen in the bone, and that it also leads to increased bone mineral density. The vitamin is also used for growth and repair of tissues, including tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, and it aids in the absorption of iron.

Studies have shown that those with higher vitamin C intake have lower risk of fracture, including hip fractures,” she said. “Adequate intake will ensure that you’re enhancing bone formation and strength.”

The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 milligrams (mg) for women and 90 mg for men. In addition to boosting your bone health, the vitamin can also help support your immune system—especially since flu season is coming up fast. But, she cautions, don’t overdo it.

“While intake larger than the RDA [recommended dietary allowance] may be beneficial, megadoses of vitamin C should be avoided, and can actually cause more harm than good,” she said. Too much of the vitamin can cause diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, gastritis, fatigue, headache, and insomnia, according to Harvard Medical School.

Also, like other types of vitamins and minerals, both the researchers and Vavrek suggest loading up your cupboards and fridge with whole-food options before you turn to supplements.

“Following a proper, well-balanced diet seems to be the most appropriate approach,” the research concluded. “The current recommendation is consuming five servings of vegetables and fruit a day.”

That’s especially important since your body doesn’t make vitamin C on its own and doesn’t store it. So, load up on these vitamin C-rich foods: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red peppers, tomatoes, kiwi, lemons, strawberries, and oranges.

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