The study – published in PLoS ONE – provides evidence that vitamin C, when ingested orally, can prevent bone loss and stimulate the formation of new bone.
"The medical world has known for some time that low amounts of vitamin C can cause scurvy and brittle bones, and that higher vitamin C intake is associated with higher bone mass in humans," explained lead researcher Dr Mone Zaidi.
"What this study shows is that large doses of vitamin C, when ingested orally by mice, actively stimulate bone formation to protect the skeleton. It does this by inducing osteoblasts, or premature bone cells, to differentiate into mature, mineralizing specialty cells."
Zaidi said the findings have ‘profound’ public health implications, adding that it is “well worth exploring for its therapeutic potential in people."
“Together with prior epidemiologic evidence showing a relationship between dietary intake and bone mass, our data provide compelling evidence for a therapeutic potential for vitamin C,” said the research team.
Zaidi and his colleagues worked with groups of mice whose ovaries had been removed, a procedure known to reduce bone density, and compared them with control mice that had 'sham' operations, which left their ovaries intact.
The mice with ovariectomies were divided into two groups, one of which was given large doses of vitamin C over eight weeks. The team then measured the bone mineral density in the lumbar spine, femur, and tibia bones.
Zaidi and his team revealed that mice who received an ovariectomy without vitamin had a much lower bone mineral density (BMD) than those that received a ‘sham’ operation.
Mice with no ovaries but given large doses of vitamin C, had roughly the same BMD as the controls – suggesting vitamin C prevented bone density losses in this group.
"Further research may discover that dietary supplements may help prevent osteoporosis in humans," said Zaidi.
"If so, the findings could be ultimately useful to developing nations where osteoporosis is prevalent and standard medications are sparse and expensive."
Source: PLoS ONE
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047058
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