The Secret to Strong Bones: Vitamin C

algaecal natural bone health

photo by Joy Gouble Dus on Flickr

If you read between the lines of history books (and later on in this article) you will recognize that vitamin C, in a roundabout way, shaped the world we live in today.

And it continues to be pivotal because C is crucial to growing your bones today, and forever.

You know the importance of calcium for bone health, but calcium doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It requires help to do its bone health job. And that’s where C enters the picture.

There is ample scientific evidence that vitamin C is crucial for bone health because…

Vitamin C Intake Increases the Solubility of Calcium

After you take a calcium supplement your body works to dissolve it in your stomach. The more you can dissolve, the more can be absorbed and get to the bones.

Anything that aids in this process is very helpful, as our ability to dissolve capsules, tablets or food diminishes as we grow older – due to the weakening of stomach acid.

High levels of calcium in the body can contribute to low stomach acids, so taking Vitamin C can support a healthy digestive process.

So ensuring you are getting enough vitamin C is paramount for your bone health.

Vitamin C Intake Increases Calcium Absorption

Once the stomach dissolves your calcium supplement (thanks in part to vitamin C) it’s available to be absorbed through your intestinal wall and enter your bloodstream, on its journey to your bones.

Calcium absorption however, regardless of the type you take, ranges only from about 25-35%. It varies based on your age, gender, how much your body actually needs calcium AND on the proper intake of vitamin C.

Vitamin C: The Key To Naval Domination?

Vitamin C helped shape the New World- and your bones. It’s affected world history, arguably as much as guns, germs and steel, and it possibly influenced global events to such a degree that I’m typing, and you’re reading this in English, not French.

The complete lack of it through the ages was fatal, and left the living wishing there was a simple cure that grew on trees – and all along it did! Vitamin C is easy to find and comes in many fruits and vegetables. But if you take it out of your diet, it’s as risky as pulling from the bottom of a house of cards.

We’re blessed to have the accumulated knowledge of centuries at our fingertips. Imagine how until the 19th century no one had made the connection that Regular vitamin C was crucial for strong bones.

Lack of knowledge of vitamin C was one of the limiting factors of marine travel, with scurvy often killing large numbers on long-distance voyages.

Englishmen are still affectionately called ‘limeys’, as vitamin C rich limes kept British sailors alive on long journeys. It allowed them to survive and be a dominating force on the high seas and upon arrival in the New World.

They must’ve sucked on boatloads of limes because the name has stuck for centuries. A small price to pay for the naval (and consequently colonial) domination that couldn’t have happened without the vitamin C heavy limes.

And exciting new research is indicating that vitamin C does a lot more than just prevent scurvy and help grow your bones!

There is emerging scientific proof that vitamin C also helps to:

  • Enhance cancer survival; improve quality of life; reduce inflammation in cancer patients [1],[2]
  • Promote bone health [3]
  • Improve several measures of immune system function [4]
  • Provide resistance against certain pathogens [4]
  • Repair body tissue
  • Fight infections
  • Protect from free radical damage (through its antioxidant activity) associated with infection, and other stressors that can injure cells [5]

The following studies are hugely supportive of the broad health benefits of vitamin C.

Upon measuring 19,000 adults, those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin C were predicted to be twice as likely to die over the course of four years compared to those with the highest levels!

In a Japanese rural community, 1241 women and 880 men who were initially free of stroke were examined in 1977 and followed until 1997. The conclusion was that:

Vitamin C concentration is inversely related to the incidence of stroke(i.e. those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin C had the highest incidences of stroke – and vice versa) [6]

In the U.S. 11,000 adults were looked at in a UCLA study over a 10 year span.

They found that males who took 800 mg of vitamin C daily lived about six years longer than those who took only 60 mg of vitamin C daily. And women in the study enjoyed greater longevity with increased vitamin C consumption. [7] A solid return on one’s investment, no doubt!

A published British Medical Journal study evaluated 1,605 randomly selected men in Finland between 1984 and 1989. None had evidence of pre-existing heart disease. …the men who were deficient in vitamin C had 3.5 times more heart attacks than men who were not deficient. The conclusion was:

“Vitamin C deficiency…is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.” [8]

Recommended Daily Vitamin C Intake

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C is 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult females.

These amounts should be considered the bare minimum, and are what’s needed to ward off long forgotten diseases like scurvy.

Because the majority of studies show vitamin C provides multiple health benefits when subjects receive amounts significantly higher than the conservative RDIs:

  • 300 mg/day reduces the risk of cataract formation by 70%–75% [9]
  • 800 mg of vitamin C daily allowed subjects to live about six years longer than those who took only 60 mg of vitamin C daily [7]

Linus Pauling is considered the major pioneer in the curative powers of vitamin C.

Pauling declared a dosage of 1000 – 3,000 mg per day was responsible for curing himself of Bright’s Disease.

This set him on his lifelong path of deep research into the untapped benefits of vitamin C, advocating its value in cancer therapy and against the common cold.

He published two studies of a group of 100 terminal patients that claimed vitamin C increased survival by as much as four times compared to untreated patients.

Public support for his new high dose vitamin C therapy (what he called ‘orthomolecular’) was quite significant by the 1960s.

In fact, his alternative approach so threatened mainstream medicine that he and his research was repeatedly denounced throughout his career, claiming excessive vitamin C consumption leads to kidney stones.

It took until April 1999 for a Harvard study to exonerate him. It concluded “no increased risk of kidney stones when evaluating 85,557 women over a 14-year study period”.

The only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes, and considered to be one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time by the magazine New Scientist, Linus Pauling, and his visionary stance on vitamin C, has been vindicated by countless recent studies, some that are mentioned above.

Over the past 12 years, a large volume of published studies has supported Linus Pauling’s position on the role of vitamin C and heart disease.

Many of these studies look at the beneficial effects that vitamin C has on the arterial wall, but what is most impressive are human epidemiological studies showing that people with high levels of vitamin C live longer and suffer fewer heart attacks compared to those with low vitamin C.

The risk of actual C toxicity is very rare (because the body cannot store it). Beyond the stated Upper Tolerable Limit of 2000 mg, few experience benign symptoms such as diarrhea and gastrointestinal disturbances – not actual signs of toxicity.

Waves of studies show vast protective health benefits are to be gained from vitamin C – when dosages several fold of what is typically recommended are taken. If they were reading this, British sailors and Linus Pauling would be nodding in agreement.

If your goal is healthy, strong bones, remember to get your vitamin C.


References:

  1. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17297243
  2. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22021693
  3. ^ http://www.jbc.org/content/early/2010/04/21/jbc.M110.110247.full.pdf+html?sid=cfd71526-1946-4df2-aa48-5132bc51cf79
  4. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19263912
  5. ^ Hemila H. Vitamin C supplementation and the common cold—was Linus Pauling right or wrong? Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1997;67(5):329-35.
  6. ^ http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/31/10/2287.full
  7. ^ ^ Enstrom JE, Kanim LE, Klein MA. Vitamin C intake and mortality among a sample of the United States population. Epidemiology. 1992 May;3(3):194-202.
  8. ^ Nyyssonen K, Parviainen MT, Salonen R, et al. Vitamin C deficiency and risk of myocardial infarction: prospective population study of men from eastern Finland. BMJ. 1997 Mar 1;314(7081):634-8.
  9. ^ Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:1086-107. [PubMed abstract]
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Michael Dewey

About Michael Dewey

Michael is AlgaeCal’s Editor in Chief, and was born in Toronto, Ontario. He is responsible for most of AlgaeCal’s writing material such as blog posts, and you might recognize his face from the AlgaeCal newsletters as well. Outside of work, Mike pursues both sporting and creative pursuits. He enjoys beach volleyball, cycling hockey, baseball and snowboarding, but also uses digital technology to compose his own music; merging and stacking layers of instruments and vocals, one-by-one, to make a full band sound.

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