Most people think of Vitamin C as the go-to nutrient for immune support.

Consumers are less aware of the importance of Vitamin C for building and maintaining muscle. Though it has been a popular tool for body builders and other athletes for a number of years, it is less known among the general public.

Now new research is showing that Vitamin C helps people over 50 retain muscle mass in later life.

The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that older people who consumed plentiful amounts of Vitamin C foods had the best skeletal muscle mass.

Large scale analysis

The study was conducted at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. The research team studied data from more than 13,000 people aged between 42-82 years, who are taking part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).

Researchers calculated their skeletal muscle mass and analyzed their Vitamin C intakes from a seven-day food diary. They also examined the amount of Vitamin C in their blood.

Dr Richard Hayhoe, from University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “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.

“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.”

Declining muscle mass prevalent

The researchers noted that the study was vital in light of the dismal statistics on aging and muscle mass.

Other studies have shown that people over 50 lose up to one percent of their skeletal muscle mass each year. This loss, which can lead to other health issues and injuries, is estimated to affect more than 50 million people worldwide.

According to Professor Ailsa Welch, the lead researcher of the study, the potent antioxidant properties of Vitamin C may prevent long-term oxidative damage of the cells and tissues within skeletal muscle.

“Unopposed these free radicals can contribute to the destruction of muscle, thus speeding up age-related decline,” Welch said. “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.”

Other details found in the meta-analysis include:

• Muscle atrophy is reversed when appropriate amounts of Vitamin C is introduced into the diet.

• The muscle mass increase was higher for women, who were found to have 3.9% greater mass than women with low Vitamin C. Though still statistically relevant, the improvement for men was lower.

• 60% of men and 50% of women were not consuming as much Vitamin C as they should, suggesting the population at large needs to vastly improve Vitamin C intake.

Optimal Whole C - Vitamin C bottle with fruit

The good news

One positive determination made by the researchers is the ease with which a reversal can be made by those whose Vitamin C intake is insufficient.

According to the researchers, most people could reach a suitable intake by simply adding one citrus fruit and one side vegetable to their daily intake.

The next best thing to eating Vitamin C foods is to supplement with a product made from real foods. Optimal Whole C from Optimal Health Systems is created with acerola cherry, orange, black currant and other foods.

“Ascorbic acid” products provide only a portion of the complete Vitamin C. So, skip the “partial Vitamin C” products and receive the full benefit of a whole food Vitamin C with Optimal Whole C!

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Sources: University of East Anglia, The Journal of Nutrition.