The Forgotten Bone Nutrients: Vitamin C

Vitamin C is more than just the “orange juice vitamin” that people like to take in mega doses in hopes that it may cure their cold. It is an essential vitamin that we need for a number of important body functions. These include maintaining healthy connective tissues, producing energy, acting as an antioxidant, and even reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?

The good news is that we do a much better job of getting the recommended amount of vitamin C compared to many of the other essential bone nutrients. As a result, the rate of vitamin C deficiency has been falling steadily over the years—from 13% in the early 1990s to only 7.1% in 2009.

The RDA of vitamin C is 90 mg for men, and 75 mg for women. The safe “upper limit” for vitamin C intake is 2000 mg each day. There is no evidence that even higher amounts of vitamin C (up to 10,000 mg daily) will lead to any significant adverse effects, however, it is also unlikely that these mega doses will provide you with any additional health benefits. When side effects of vitamin C develop, it usually involves abdominal discomfort and diarrhea.

Vitamin C Deficiency Has Been Associated With These Health Conditions

  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor wound healing
  • Lethargy
  • Easy bruising
  • Joint pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke

Vitamin C and Your Bones

Vitamin C protects your bones by acting as a potent antioxidant, and also helping to build strong bone collagen.

Antioxidant Properties

You’ve probably heard that a diet rich in antioxidants is beneficial for your health, but few of us truly understand what an antioxidant does to protect our bodies. Picture antioxidants as a small army surrounding your body’s bones waiting to fend off free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are a natural byproduct formed as your body produces energy. They can also develop from exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, UV radiation, and air pollution. If you did not have antioxidants, these unstable molecules would attack your body’s cells and impair their structure and function. Antioxidants are able to stabilize free radicals and protect your bones from unnecessary damage.

When your bones are attacked by free radicals, they respond by increasing the activity of bone breakdown cells known as osteoclasts, and decreasing the speed that your osteoblast cells can build new bone. If this process continues for an extended period of time, it can lead to bone loss and an increased risk for fractures.

Several studies have demonstrated the relationship between vitamin C and healthy bones.

  • A study on genetically modified mice was performed to determine the effects of vitamin C deficiency. Rats who were deprived of vitamin C quickly developed osteoporosis, which was reversible once the deficiency was corrected.
  • A study involving men found that vitamin C intake was associated with higher bone density and less bone loss over time, particularly in men who had low calcium and vitamin E intake.

Vitamin C and Collagen Production

Bone strength is determined not just by the density of your bones, but also the quality of your bones. Approximately 60% of bone is composed of minerals, and the other 40% consists of collagen and water. Collagen improves bone quality by providing a sturdy framework for mineralized bone to be created upon. Vitamin C is a requirement for healthy collagen, and therefore healthy bones. Animal studies have shown that vitamin C deficiency leads to impaired bone density, as well as abnormal cartilage and connective tissues, which also rely on collagen for their structure and function.

How Can You Get More Vitamin C Through Your Diet?

Since your body is unable to store vitamin C, it is important for you to eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods. Below is a list of fruits and vegetables that contain a significant amount of vitamin C.

  • Sweet Red Pepper (1/2 cup): 95 mg
  • Kiwi: 91 mg
  • Strawberries (1 cup): 85 mg
  • Kale (1 cup): 80 mg
  • Orange Juice: 60-90 mg
  • Grapefruit Juice: 60-70 mg
  • Orange (1 medium): 70 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup): 51 mg
  • Potato (1 medium): 17 mg
  • Tomato (1 medium): 16 mg
  • Spinach (1 cup): 8 mg
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2 Comments

  • Gael says:

    How about freshly squeezed pomegranate juice?

    • OsteoAdvisor says:

      Hi Gael,

      Unfortunately, pomegranate juice is not a good source of vitamin C. 1 cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice only has 0.2mg of vitamin C, which is less than 1% of your daily needs. However, pomegranate juice has plenty of other vitamins and antioxidants which make it a worthwhile addition to your diet!