Vitamin C key to maintaining muscle mass after age 50, study suggests

NORWICH, England — Gym enthusiasts the world over may want to consider adding a new item to their fitness shopping list: vitamin C. A new study from the University of East Anglia concludes that vitamin C could be a key aspect of maintaining strong muscles past the age of 50.

Researchers note that older adults who take in large amounts of vitamin C tend to have the strongest and healthiest skeletal muscle mass.

Losing some power and muscles mass as one grows older is as common as gray hair and wrinkles. In some cases, this loss of muscle can lead to medical conditions (sarcopenia), frailty, and an overall lower quality of life. This discovery could potentially benefit countless people.

“As people age, they lose skeletal muscle mass and strength. 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,” explains lead researcher Professor Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, in a release. “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.”

“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,” he continues. “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.”

Observational study shows clear link between vitamin C, muscle mass

The study uses health data from 13,000 adults between the ages of 42 and 82. Average vitamin C consumption was assessed via a seven-day food diary. Skeletal muscle mass was also calculated, as well as vitamin C levels in blood samples.

“We studied a large sample of older Norfolk residents and found that people with the highest amounts of vitamin C in their diet or blood had the greatest estimated skeletal muscle mass, compared to those with the lowest amounts,” comments Dr. Richard Hayhoe, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “We are very excited by our findings as they suggest that dietary vitamin C is important for muscle health in older men and women and may be useful for preventing age-related muscle loss.”

Despite there being copious sources of vitamin C to choose from (supplements, fruits, vegetables), the study’s authors note that close to 60% of men and 50% of women examined for this study were not consuming enough vitamin C to meet European Food Safety Agency recommendations.

“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,” Dr. Hayhoe concludes.

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Like studies? Follow us on Facebook!