It has long been known that vitamin C boosts the immune system and helps prevent the common cold. But a new study has shown that it also helps strengthen bones and prevents breaks. A major study of more than 10,000 people has shown that those who consume the highest amount of vitamin C every day were much less likely to suffer fractures.
The secret, researchers say, is vitamin C is also found in abundance in tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit and broccoli. Even drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice every day could nearly halve the risk of hip fractures.
Around 65,000 people a year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland suffer a hip fracture – which usually involves a break in the top part of the thighbone, or femur. Most are frail or elderly people who have some degree of osteoporosis – the age-related condition that leaves bones brittle and affects more than three million people in the UK.
You need at least 40mg of vitamin C a day. Daily consumption is essential as the body does not store the vitamin.
Scientists at Zhengzhou University in China pooled data from six previous studies on vitamin C and fracture risk. They looked at vitamin C intake among 2,899 hip fracture patients and compared the results with 7,908 healthy volunteers of a similar age.
The results revealed that for every 50mg a day of vitamin C intake – roughly one medium-sized orange, or a quarter of a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – the risk of a fracture dropped by five per cent. This means an average glass containing eight fluid ounces of juice could potentially reduce the risk by 20 per cent and two glasses by 40 per cent.
Vitamin C is thought to protect against fragile bones by stimulating cells called osteoblasts to become mature bone cells.
In a report on their findings, scientists said: “Our results strongly support the idea that increasing dietary vitamin C can decrease the risk of hip fracture.”
Another recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found eating oranges, grapefruits or lemons packed with citric acid also cut the risk of dementia by almost a quarter. Citric acid contains a chemical called nobiletin, which, during animal tests, has been shown to slow or reverse impairment of memory.