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Vitamin C Retards Bone Loss in Older Men

  • Rose Hoban

Your mother was right - eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. And some new research suggests her advice is good for a very long time - even into old age. It appears that older men who eat fruits and vegetables can delay the onset of brittle bone disease - known as osteoporosis.

For years, doctors focused on osteoporosis in women only. But men are living longer, and as they age, their bones can also get brittle and break easily. As Tufts University researcher Katherine Tucker explains, there are parts of the body where bone loss is a particular problem

We want to prevent hip fractures. And the spine is another area that is really at risk of spinal compression and loss? that reduces height over time.

Many doctors recommend that people include calcium in their diet to keep their bones strong. But in an earlier study, Tucker had found that people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables had stronger bones over time than people who didn't eat fruits and vegetables regularly.

The fruits and vegetables provide molecules which help to reduce acidity in the blood and that helps to reduce bone resorption? and resorption means the breaking down of bone cells to release calcium into the blood.

In this follow-up study, Tucker and her colleagues recruited older men who averaged about 75 years of age. Over a period of four years, the researchers used a bone scanner to make regular measurements of the men's hips, spines and forearms. Tucker also had the men keep detailed information about what they ate. In particular, she asked about vitamin C, because vitamin C seems to slow down bone resorption.

We were able to see that vitamin C was quite protective against bone loss over four years. And it was most significant in men who also had either low calcium or low vitamin E intake. Now low calcium is an obvious risk factor, so it seems that the vitamin C is protective when you have that risk. And when you have low vitamin E it seems like the highest levels of vitamin C also make up for that a little bit.

Vitamin C is found commonly in many fruits and vegetables. But Tucker says the men with the strongest bones had also taken vitamin C supplements.

We found that the total vitamin C was what really mattered. But that in this case, in order to see the protection from vitamin C, it was at a level that was mainly achieved from supplements.

Tucker is continuing research on which nutrients can keep bones strong, long after mother has stopped telling you to eat your vegetables.

Listen to audio files for a whole health report in Lao.

Translated by: Buasawan Simmala

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