People above 50, kindly take note. Researchers have found 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 characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function), frailty and reduced quality of life.
People over 50 lose up to one percent of their skeletal muscle mass each year, and this loss is thought to affect more than 50 million people worldwide, according to the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Vitamin C and Skeletal Muscle Mass
Ailsa Welch from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK and study author said, "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," Welch added.
But until now, few studies have investigated the importance of Vitamin C intake for older people. The team 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.
Improved Muscle Mass
They 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. The study 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," said study researcher Richard Hayhoe also from UEA.
This is particularly significant as Vitamin C is readily available in fruits and vegetables, or supplements, so improving intake of this vitamin is relatively straight forward. "We're not talking about people needing mega-doses. Eating a citrus fruit, such as orange, each day and having a vegetable side to a meal will be sufficient for most people," the study authors wrote.