Scurvy. The word alone sounds forbidding, and conquering this deadly disease caused by a lack of vitamin C made world travel possible in the 18th century.
While an abundance of fresh citrus fruit and nutritional supplements have made scurvy uncommon in the U.S. today, there are 206 reasons you should be sure you get enough of this important nutrient: Vitamin C helps build and maintain healthy bones.
Long touted as a powerful antioxidant and known to boost the immune system, the role vitamin C plays in the skeletal system is often overlooked. You might be surprised to learn how this vitamin maintains strong, healthy bones throughout your lifetime. Here are three ways this nutrient will keep you running for many decades to come:
1. Collagen Production
Vitamin C is vital in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is part of your skin’s connective tissue, so what does that have to do with bone health, you ask?
Simply put, 90 percent of the organic matrix of your bones is collagen. That means if it isn’t a mineral it’s mostly collagen, and your body can’t make collagen without vitamin C.
Since your body produces less collagen as you age, the results are wrinkles, thinner skin, weaker joints and less healthy bones.
Much like the rest of your body, your bones can’t stay strong without new collagen, and vitamin C holds the key to your body’s collagen production.
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2. Preventing Osteoporosis
Preventing osteoporosis, or age-related bone loss, is the next step up in the vitamin C and collagen connection.
According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, vitamin C promotes bone density and mass. Denser bones mean less brittle bones, which in turn means less bone fractures.
Part of C’s antioxidant superpowers include its ability to suppress bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts, while also stimulating the cells which build bones.
Denser, stronger bones are less likely to break, so vitamin C plays a vital role in preventing both fragile bones and the resulting fractures which are often seen in the aging population.
The National Institutes of Health states “persuasive epidemiological evidence suggests that higher vitamin C intake is associated with higher bone mass as well as reduced fracture risk.”
3. Healing Fractures
Accidents happen, even when you have strong, healthy bones. Vitamin C comes to the rescue here, too. When a broken bone begins to heal, it forms a callus of new growth at the fracture, much like a woven patch of bone.
Guess what the callus is formed from? If you said collagen, you’re right. Again, collagen can’t form without vitamin C, so if you’re deficient in C you won’t heal as fast as possible.
Another role C plays in the healing of fractures has to do with its antioxidant properties, since C helps reduce the swelling associated with broken bones. The sooner the swelling is reduced, the faster your bone can go about its business of rejuvenating, and that’s vital to a speedy return to the skiing slopes.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The bottom line is, of course, make vitamin C a big part of your diet. While orange juice is probably the first food that comes to mind, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine other foods high in vitamin C include cantaloupe, all citrus fruits, mango, kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and raspberries.
Vitamin C is also high in vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, leafy greens, and bell peppers.
If you’re worried you’re not getting enough C in your diet, you should take a supplement on a regular basis. Your bones will thank you for it!