Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is one of thirteen essential vitamins. This nutrient is considered an essential vitamin because of its numerous physiological health benefits. Vitamin C's two major functions are as an antioxidant and enzyme cofactor. We need to consume essential vitamins through diet because our body cannot produce these nutrients on its own, or make enough of it to sustain healthy body functions.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in water and isn't stored in our fatty tissue or liver like fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin D. It is rare to develop harmful side effects with these water-soluble vitamins because they are easily flushed out of the body. Thus, high dose supplementation might be a reasonable complement to a healthy lifestyle
4 Musculoskeletal Benefits of Vitamin C
1. Vitamin C Supports Joint Health
Vitamin C is a key participant in the production of glycosaminoglycans(GAGs).
An example of a glycosaminoglycans is hyaluronic acid. These molecules provide the high negative charge that attracts water molecules into the cartilage extracellular matrix. This water cushion allows cartilage to act as a shock absorber. Additionally, vitamin C is a vital ingredient in the production of collagen. Collagen makes up to 20% of cartilage mass and is an all important contributor to cartilage strength.
Unhealthy joints have been associated with low vitamin C intake. Researchers in Boston found a threefold reduction of unhealthy joints when study participants consumed 75 mg or more of vitamin C per day. (McAlindon et al. ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM Vol. 39, No. 4, April 19%, pp 648-6656.)
To test the hypothesis that more vitamin C in the diet can reduce pain and improve function, Danish scientists performed a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in patients with unhealthy hips and knees. Subjects were treated with 1000 mg/day of vitamin C for 14 days. The vitamin C treatment group experienced significant pain reduction and function improvement compared to the placebo group. (Jensen et al. Ugeskr Laeger. 2003 Jun 16;165(25):25636.)
2. Vitamin C Supports Bone Health
Free radical damage leads to increased activity of bone resorbing cells called osteoclasts. Vitamin C helps combat free radical injury and potentially osteoclast activation. Moreover, scientists have demonstrated that vitamin C helps provide a favorable environment for the growth of new bone producing cells called osteoblasts.
Also, 90% of organic bone is composed of collagen. As previously noted, vitamin C is required for properly functioning collagen . Vitamin C helps cross link collagen and helps give bone tensile strength. In the absence of sufficient vitamin C, bones would be brittle and break easily.
American investigators looked at the relationship between vitamin C intake and bone mineral density. The author’s concluded higher vitamin C intake was associated with high bone mineral density. (Hall SL, Greendale GA. The relation of dietary vitamin C intake to bone mineral density: results from the PEPI study. Calcified tissue international. 1998; 63(3):183–189. [PubMed: 9701620])
3. Vitamin C Support Muscle Health
Healthy, vibrant muscle cells are important for sustaining strength, endurance, and function. Muscle cells possess large amounts of mitochondria. As the primary energy generator of the cell, mitochondria generate many free radicals. Excessive exposure to free radicals causes premature aging of muscle. Vitamin C’s powerful anti-oxidant properties helps protect the vulnerable muscle cells.
Additionally, vitamin c is a required cofactor for the synthesis of L-carnitine. L-carnitine facilitates the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria.The mitochondria is the power generator of the cell and its favorite fuel is fat.
The mitochondria turns fatty acids into packets of energy called ATP. The more ATP your mitochondria produces the more energy you have. The cell uses this energy to repair damaged internal machinery, support normal cellular function, and grow new muscle.
Researchers in West Virginia evaluated the effect of vitamin C on chronically overused leg muscles of rats. The researchers demonstrated that vitamin c was associated with a reduction in markers of oxidative stress and boosted of the rats anti-oxidant enzymes.(Ryan et al. Vitamin E and C supplementation reduces oxidative stress, improves antioxidant enzymes and positive muscle work in chronically loaded muscles of aged rats. Exp Gerontol. 2010 Nov; 45(11): 882–895.)
4. Vitamin Supports Tendon Health
Healthy tendons need collagen to function properly. In fact, tendons are 90% collagen by dry weight. As noted before, collagen confers on tendons the proper amount of strength that is needed to transfer the force generated by muscle to bones.
Turkish researchers investigated the effect of Vitamin C on unhealthy rat Achilles tendons. The treatment group demonstrated significantly greater new tendon cells synthesis compared to non treatment group.(Omeroglu et al. High dose vitamin C supplementation accelerates the Achilles tendon healing in healthy rats. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2009 Feb;129(2):2816. doi: 10.1007/s0040200806030. Epub 2008 Feb 29.)
Other Health Benefits
There are other conditions that vitamin C may assist, although more research is needed and for some conditions results to date have been mixed. Those include:
- Supports heart health
- Boosts brain health
- Promotes eye health
- Enhances blood sugar health
- Supports lung health
Rich Sources of Vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamin C.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
The Food and Nutrition Board has developed a table of recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of vitamin C, based on age and gender.
For adults over age 19:
- Men, 90 mg daily
- Women, 75 mg daily
- Pregnant women, 85 mg daily
- Breastfeeding mother, 120 mg daily
Adequate Intakes (AIs) for children:
- Infants 0 to 6 months, 40 gm daily
- Infants 7 to 12 months, 50 gm daily
For teens and children the RDAs are:
- Toddlers 1 to 3 years, 15 mg daily
- Children 4 to 8 years, 25 mg daily
- Children 9 to 13 years, 45 mg daily
- Male teens 14 to 18 years, 75 mg daily
- Female teens 14 to 18 years, 65 mg daily
Vitamin C from natural foods is generally well tolerated. RDA amounts can be obtained from a balanced, healthful diet.
The FNB has published an upper limit value of 2000 mg /day.
Excessive intake of supplemental vitamin C may cause nausea, diarrhea, and kidney stones.
Any consideration a supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional familiar with your unique medical history.
(2016). Vitamin C fact sheet for health professionals. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
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Lawler et al. Living in a Box or Call of the Wild? Revisiting Lifetime Inactivity and Sarcopenia ANTIOXIDANTS & REDOX SIGNALING Volume 15, Number 9, 2011 DOI: 10.1089/ars.2011.3974