Vitamin C may have protective effects osteoporosis, according to a new study in mice.
If replicated in people, the findings could have "profound public health implications," study researcher Dr. Mone Zaidi, M.D., a professor and director of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Bone Program, said in a statement. "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."
The PLoS ONE study was conducted in two sets of mice -- one group had had their ovaries removed, a procedure that is known to decrease bone mineral density. The other had "sham" ovary removal surgeries, so their bone mineral density was not decreased.
Then, the researchers split up the mice that had their ovaries removed into two groups. One group received a large amount of vitamin C over an eight-week period, while the other was not.
Researchers found that the mice that had had their ovaries removed but were not given vitamin C had lower bone mineral density than those that received the vitamin C.
Plus, the mice that had their ovaries removed and took the vitamin C had similar bone mineral density levels as the mice that had the sham ovary removals, according to the study.
However, the researchers noted that more studies must be done to see if the findings also apply to humans. But "if so, the findings could be ultimately useful to developing nations where osteoporosis is prevalent and standard medications are sparse and expensive," Zaidi said in the statement.
In 2008, a study from Tufts University showed a link between high vitamin C and less bone loss in elderly men, though the results were not seen in women, WebMD reported.
The researcher of that Journal of Nutrition study, Katherine L. Tucker, Ph.D., told WebMD that vitamin C's powers may come from its antioxidant effects: "Antioxidants are needed to protect against oxidative stress, therefore protecting against inflammation. Inflammation drives bone resorption, which is basically taking calcium away from the bones. Vitamin C, theoretically, should help slow that resorption."
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One small papaya (about 157 grams) has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2406" target="_hplink">95.6 milligrams</a> of vitamin C. A cup of mashed papaya has a whopping 140 milligrams. More bang for your buck? Papaya is also high in <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1985/2" target="_hplink">vitamin A, folate and dietary fiber</a>, according to Self Nutrition Data.
Red Bell Peppers
One cup of raw, chopped red bell pepper packs an impressive <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2406" target="_hplink">190.3 milligrams of vitamin C</a>. The same amount of a green pepper has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3136" target="_hplink">119.8 milligrams</a>.
Need <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/03/breast-cancer-vegetables_n_1400294.html" target="_hplink">yet another</a></em> healthy reason to eat your broccoli? Try this: One serving (148 grams) of chopped broccoli adds up to <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2939" target="_hplink">132 milligrams of vitamin C</a>.
Hungry for a salad? Try kale. Just two cups of this veggie, chopped, offers 160.8 milligrams of vitamin C. This superfood is also rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as phytonutrients and fiber, <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale" target="_hplink">according to WebMD</a>.
Here's sweet news: one serving (147 grams) of strawberries has 86.5 milligrams of vitamin C. (And just this week, a study linked two servings of the red fruit a week to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/cognitive-impairment-study-berries_n_1453557.html" target="_hplink">slowed cognitive degeneration</a>.)
One serving of kiwi offers <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2353" target="_hplink">137.2 milligrams of vitamin C</a>.
One small head of cauliflower (with a four-inch diameter) has 127.7 milligrams of vitamin C (and just 66 calories).
Honorable Mention: Brussels Sprouts
They may not beat an orange, but a cup of Brussels sprouts still has a solid 48.4 milligrams of vitamin C. And the <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2362/2" target="_hplink">veggie is also rich</a> in riboflavin, iron, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamin A, among others.
Honorable Mention: Sweet Potatoes
Another orange food to add to the list (even though it doesn't have more C than an actual orange) are sweet potatoes. One large sweet potato has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3274?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=sweet+potatoe" target="_hplink">35.3 milligrams</a>.
Honorable Mention: Cantaloupe
Again, this one doesn't have quite as much vitamin C as an orange, but one serving does offer <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2372" target="_hplink">49.2 milligrams</a>.