Of all the wondrous benefits of vitamin C, when was the last time you considered C and your bones? Bone formation happens in several phases, and you may be surprised to learn that formation continues through adulthood. Bone development begins in the embryo and is a complex process of formation, modeling and remodeling called osteogenesis or ossification.1 So, let’s talk bone basics.
Bone formation + Vitamin C
Remodeling refers to the process of the breakdown and reformation of bone which occurs throughout life. And osteoblasts, which compose 90-95% of bone, are the captains of this bone making ship. With a lifespan of up to 25 years,2 osteoblasts are the one of the longest living cells in the human body (brain, eye, egg, and heart cells have them beat).3 And osteoblasts have one golden ticket: vitamin C.4 That’s because vitamin C stimulates the development of osteoblasts thereby promoting new bone development, while suppressing osteoclasts which break down bone.5
Bone strength + Vitamin C
We measure bone strength based on two factors: bone mineral density and bone quality matrix. And mineralization refers to the process in which mineral crystals (primarily calcium) are deposited into the bone matrix. As you can imagine, it’s crucial for bone health. Often when we talk bone, calcium follows. And that’s because an astounding 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones.6 You’ll often hear both vitamin D and vitamin C linked to bone health. That’s because these vitamins can increase the absorption of calcium. In fact, it is widely recommended to take vitamin C with calcium in order to increase calcium absorption.7
But that’s not the end of our vitamin C and bone health journey. Next up, collagen. The protein that provides the soft framework of our bones, skin, and organs. Because collagen comprises 90% of your organic bone matrix.8 Which brings us to yet another role of vitamin c on bone health. Because those beautiful C’s are essential not only for the production of collagen,9 but vitamin c can also speed up the process of mineralization.10 It should be noted that it's recommended children with growing bones should also have a adequate supply of copper if taking vitamin C. Copper is essential in connective tissue formation.11 High doses of vitamin C should accompany with some copper. Luckily, copper is easy to get in some foods, like cocoa (read Chocolate!) - so supplementation isn't typically required. Adults typically have copper in their diet but eating foods high in this mineral with vitamin C may give bones the one-two punch to better health/density.
In fact, a growing number of studies are pointing to vitamin c and bone health, specifically as we age:
• Vitamin C and bone mineral density in premenopausal women12
• Vitamin C and lower 4-year bone loss in elderly men13
• Lower levels of vitamin C linked to hip fracture14
• Lower levels of vitamin C linked to lower levels of bone mineral density15
Of course, it’s always important to note that vitamin C is an essential vitamin. Meaning humans cannot synthesis or produce it, we have to consume it as part of our diet. There's a wide array of sources of C found in fruits and vegetables.16 We all have those days when you find yourself lacking in green department. Luckily, supplementation has been established as an effective means of intake.