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."