“There’s more to nutrition and bone health than just calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin C is an additional important nutrient that may help prevent bone loss.”

That’s the take-home message of analyses based on the Framingham Osteoporosis Study (J Nutr. 2008;138:1931-1938), says senior scientist Katherine L. Tucker, PhD, professor of nutritional epidemiology at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

Men in the highest third of vitamin C consumption maintained trochanter bone mineral density (BMD) over the course of four years. Those in the lowest third lost 5.6% of their BMD.

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The effect on women was not statistically significant. Although the study does not fully account for the observed gender difference, Dr. Tucker suspects it might be because women tend to pay more attention to what they eat.

“Women are less likely to have low nutrient intakes in general than men,” she comments. “We are able to see the effects in men because there is a wider distribution of adequacy and ability to respond to the vitamin C.”

The difference also suggests “that possible effects of vitamin C may not be easily separated from other protective factors in fruits and vegetables,” the authors observe.

Dr. Tucker and her team traced the associations between vitamin C consumption and current bone mass, as well as bone loss at the hip, spine, and arm among people who participated in ancillary research to the Framingham Heart Study. Mean age was 75 years. The team also looked at the effects of other variables, including smoking history and calcium and vitamin E intakes.