Vitamin C Boosts Muscle Mass

After age 50, people lose 1% of muscles yearly

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Vitamin C could be the key to better muscles in later life, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA). The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, shows that older people who eat plenty of vitamin C—found in citrus fruits, berries, and veggies—have the best skeletal muscle mass.

This is important because people tend to lose skeletal muscle mass as they get older—leading to sarcopenia (a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function), frailty, and reduced quality of life.

“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,” said lead researcher Professor Ailsa Welch of the UEA Norwich Medical School.

“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.

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 Norfolk Study. 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.

REFERENCE Lucy N Lewis, Richard P G Hayhoe, Angela A Mulligan, Robert N Luben, Kay-Tee Khaw, Ailsa A Welch. Lower Dietary and Circulating Vitamin C in Middle- and Older-Aged Men and Women Are Associated with Lower Estimated Skeletal Muscle Mass. The Journal of Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa221
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