When you think of taking care of your bone health, you probably think of trying to get enough calcium through dairy, certain vegetables, or supplements. Yet you may not know that your bones also have another ally that can help them stay just as healthy as calcium does. You may even be drinking it every day in your juice or getting it through other foods or supplements. What is this ally? Let me tell you about it…
Vitamin C and Your Bones
A recent study out of Mount Sinai Hospital (New York)’s Bone Program reported that Vitamin C can be just as helpful to maintaining bone density as calcium. In their study, they gave Vitamin C to mice who had had their ovaries removed and were not producing estrogen – equivalent to post menopausal women with estrogen decline. Estrogen is a hormone that helps keep bones strong. When it declines in menopause, women are at greater risk for osteoporosis, weakening bones, and/or stress fractures.
The study results showed that the mice who received the Vitamin C had developed bone density similar to those who had their ovaries. The researchers concluded that Vitamin C could help prevent bone loss in post menopausal women and older men.
Back in 2008, another study out of Tufts University proved similar findings – but this time in older men. Those men who had higher Vitamin C intake had much less bone loss.
Why does Vitamin C work so well to save your bones?
Well, Vitamin C helps build stimulate osteoclasts – immature bone cells that then grow into mature bone tissue. It also helps connective tissue in general – the type that holds your skin, cartilage, ligaments, joints and your bones together. It helps “knit” together the collagen matrix that creates the structure of these tissues. When there’s not enough Vitamin C intake the collagen can break down and the structures that collagen supports can start to weaken and break down as well.
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
The minimum low limit for Vitamin C intake is 75 mg – yet most researchers (and I agree) say that this level far too low. At least 200 mg a day is necessary for good health but I would go even farther and say at least 500 mg a day. Remember, that in addition to helping keep your bones strong, Vitamin C is a major antioxidant that fights free radical damage in your body. Without adequate antioxidants, your general health, and the health of your immune system can falter. However getting Vitamin C doesn’t just fall on drinking orange juice – there are several other ways to get enough Vitamin C in your diet to help keep your bones healthy.
1. Vegetables: There are many cruciferous, green and leafy vegetables, as well as brightly colored (red, yellow, orange) that have good levels of Vitamin C in them. These contain broccoli, kale, mustard greens, spinach, bell peppers (all colors), and red-hot chili peppers.
2. Fruits: Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C, about 60 mg per serving. Other good sources are guava, strawberries, kiwi, and papaya.
3. Herbs. Yes, there are many herbs as well that contain good levels of Vitamin C like parsley and thyme. Find creative ways to add them to your meals to up your Vitamin C intake.
4. Supplements. Although many foods are good sources of Vitamin C, you have to eat quite a bit of them to reach a 200-500 mg daily intake level. I recommend taking at least one 250 mg Vitamin C tablet a day, or getting it in your multivitamin supplement, to be sure you’re getting enough.
Even though you still do need calcium to create healthy bones, ensuring that you get enough Vitamin C in addition to calcium, will help your bone-building efforts go even further. Keeping strong bones is important to staying active as you get older. An added plus of Vitamin C is that, because it knits tissues together, it can keep your skin looking younger, longer too!