New Study: Vitamin C Could Help You Keep Muscle Mass Over Age 50
A research study just published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that consumption of Vitamin C is associated with retaining muscle mass in old age.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) analyzed data from over 13,000 European men and women between the ages of 42 and 82. They looked specifically for loss of muscle mass, along with Vitamin C intake based on diet diaries as well as evaluation of plasma Vitamin C. They took various factors into account, including lifestyle and overall diet.
What they found was a positive relationship between consumption of Vitamin C – through lemons and other citrus fruits, berries, and other fruits and vegetables – and the higher muscle mass into old age. The results were true for both men and women.
Losing Muscle As We Age
The loss of muscle mass as we age is a well known phenomenon. Lead researcher Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School is quoted in Science Daily.
“People over 50 lose up to one per cent of their skeletal muscle mass each year, and this loss is thought to affect more than 50 million people worldwide.”
It’s not just muscle mass that is affected. Many older adults suffer from sarcopenia – the loss of muscle function and weakness that goes along with it.
“It’s a big problem, because it can lead to frailty and other poor outcomes such as sarcopenia, physical disability, type-2 diabetes, reduced quality of life and death.” she said.
The Antioxidant Link
The researchers believe that the boost from Vitamin C comes from its antioxidant activity.
“We know that Vitamin C consumption is linked with skeletal muscle mass. It helps defend the cells and tissues that make up the body from potentially harmful free radical substances. Unopposed these free radicals can contribute to the destruction of muscle, thus speeding up age-related decline,” says Prof Welch. “But until now, few studies have investigated the importance of Vitamin C intake for older people. We wanted to find out whether people eating more Vitamin C had more muscle mass than other people.”
Dr Richard Hayhoe, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, warned that, although preventing muscle loss may be as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables, there is still a ways to go in terms of changing behaviors.
“We found that nearly 60 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women participants were not consuming as much Vitamin C as they should, according to the European Food Safety Agency recommendations,” he said. “We’re not talking about people needing mega-doses. Eating a citrus fruit, such as an orange, each day and having a vegetable side to a meal will be sufficient for most people.”
Lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits are excellent sources of Vitamin C.