How Vitamin C could help over 50s retain muscle mass

Published by  Communications

On 27th Aug 2020

Foods containing 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).

A study published today shows that older people who eat plenty of vitamin C – commonly found in citrus fruits, berries and vegetables – 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 characterised by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function), frailty and reduced quality of life.

Lead researcher Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “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.”

“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.”

“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.”

The research team studied data from more than 13,000 people aged between 42-82 years, who are taking part in the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) Norfolk Study.

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

Dr Richard Hayhoe, also from UEA’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.

“This is particularly significant as Vitamin C is readily available in fruits and vegetables, or supplements, so improving intake of this vitamin is relatively straightforward.

“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.

“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.”

The research was led by the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and Strangeways Research Laboratory in Cambridge, and developed from a UEA medical student project by Lucy Lewis.

The EPIC-Norfolk study was supported by grant funding from the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

Lower dietary and circulating vitamin C in middle and older aged men and women are associated with lower estimated skeletal muscle mass’ is published in the Journal of Nutrition on August 27, 2020.

Latest News

  News
Good Neighbours logo
12 May 2021

Fine City Neighbours

New campaign calls on Norwich neighbours to join the fight against digital inequality

Read more >
  News
12 May 2021

How fasting diets could harm future generations

Fasting diets could impact the health of future generations according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Read more >
  News
11 May 2021

Honoured army veteran retrains to help bolster NHS

An army veteran, who received an MBE for her work with bereaved military families, says bolstering the NHS workforce is more important than ever as she retrains...

Read more >
  News
10 May 2021

UEA team reads minds to understand human tool use

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have made an astonishing discovery about how our brains control our hands.

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
  News
10 May 2021

UEA team reads minds to understand human tool use

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have made an astonishing discovery about how our brains control our hands.

Read more >
  News
Karen Heywood at the Antarctic
07 May 2021

Prof Karen Heywood honoured as Fellow of the Royal Society

UEA’s Prof Karen Heywood, Professor of Physical Oceanography in ENV, has been recognised for a lifetime of pioneering research into the physics of the ocean with...

Read more >
  News
07 May 2021

How we created the 'perfect storm' for pandemics

The way that many of us live has created the “perfect storm” for the evolution and transmission of infectious diseases like Covid-19 according to a researcher at...

Read more >
  News
05 May 2021

UEA collaborative project to improve global electoral integrity

A University of East Anglia (UEA) researcher will jointly lead a project to improve elections around the world, thanks to a grant of nearly $193,000CAN.

Read more >
  News
03 May 2021

Personalised medications possible with 3D printing

Customised medicines could one day be manufactured to patients’ individual needs, with University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers investigating technology to 3D...

Read more >
  News
Students studying a volcano
30 Apr 2021

Geoscientists call for action on tackling racial inequality 

An article published in the journal Nature Geoscience has highlighted the shocking under-representation of students from ethnic minority backgrounds in the...

Read more >
  News
30 Apr 2021

Thousands of men to trial prostate cancer home testing kit

Thousands of men worldwide are to receive a home test kit for prostate cancer – thanks to pioneering research from the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk...

Read more >