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Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss

FRIDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Eating fruits and vegetables can help elderly men guard against the bone loss that can lead to hip fractures, Tufts University researchers report.

What's important to realize is "that bone mineral density, bone status and fracture risk are related to many more nutrients than just calcium," said study author Katherine Tucker, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at Tufts.

She said vitamin C protects against inflammation, which contributes to bone absorption and bone loss, as well as being essential for the creation of collagen, which helps strengthen bones.

The study was expected to be published in the October issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

"Earlier studies reached similar conclusions about fruits and vegetables," Tucker explained, but weren't able to separate out vitamin C as one of the protective factors. Vitamin C supplements also benefited some of the men in the study, but it is too soon to recommend the use of such supplements, she added.

Ironically, the study did not show similar benefits for Vitamin C in women who suffer from bone loss associated with osteoporosis earlier and more frequently than men, Tucker said. "We don't really have a clear explanation for that. We did expect it to be helpful in both men and women." Possible factors leading to different results in men and women could include the small sample size and a variation in susceptibility, she added.

Vitamin C was less protective in men who were smokers, which was also an unexpected finding, Tucker said. There are limitations to this finding because of other confounding factors such as male smokers may have been taking more vitamin C in the first place, she explained.

Dr. Mone Zaidi, director of the bone health program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, said the study is one of many over the last decade that have shown an important association between vitamin C and protection against bone loss. He said the Tufts' research might have shown an even stronger association. The men and women in this study had a mean age of 75 years and consumed a total amount of vitamin C ranging from none to 482 milligrams for women and none to 520 milligrams for men.

Zaidi added that laboratory experiments have shown that vitamin C inhibits bone reabsorption. To clearly establish that vitamin C protects men and women against bone loss as they age, Zaidi said that a randomized, double-blind, large clinical trial is needed. The problem is that because vitamin C can't be patented, drug companies, which usually finance this type of clinical trial, aren't interested, he said.

-Carolyn Colwel

More information

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on exercise and bone health.

SOURCES: Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., John Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston; Mone Zaidi, M.D., Ph.D., professor, medicine and physiology, and director, Mount Sinai Bone Program, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; October 2008 The Journal of Nutrition

Last Updated: Sept. 26, 2008

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