Vitamin E with Vitamin C supplements or exercise boost bone health in older women

June 26, 2009

A combination of antioxidant supplements and resistance training may protect against bone loss in postmenopausal women, according to a new study from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada. The women who received a combination of Vitamin C and E, and exercise did not experience any bone loss during a six-month period, while women receiving placebo did experience detrimental bone loss. “These results are interesting because this is the first study to examine the combination of these interventions in healthy elderly women suggesting another effective strategy to delay age-related BMD loss,” wrote the researchers, led by Isabelle Dionne, PhD.

Dr. Dionne and her co-workers recruited 34 postmenopausal women with an average age of 66 and randomly assigned them to one of four groups: placebo and no exercise; and the antioxidants Vitamin E and Vitamin C daily and no exercise; placebo plus exercise; and antioxidants plus exercise, for 6 months.

Measures of the bone mineral density (BMD) of the hip (femoral neck) and spine (lumbar spine) revealed that only the placebo and no exercise group experienced significant bone loss at the lumbar spine. The BMD of both sites remained constant in all the other groups. No additional effect was observed when antioxidants were combined with exercise. Commenting on the possible mechanism, Dionne and her co-workers stated that a previous study has indicated a decrease in bone resorption following antioxidant supplementation. “Antioxidants may reduce the damaging effects of oxidative stress on bone mass by reducing the up-regulated osteoclastic differentiation and enhancing the down-regulated osteoblastic differentiation,” they said. Osteoclasts are cells which break down bone, leading to resorption and weakening. “Our results suggest to further investigate the impact of antioxidant supplements on the prevention of osteoporosis,” they concluded.

Earlier this year, a study funded by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service reported that an increased intake of carotenoids, and particularly Lycopene, was associated with some level of protection against losses in bone mineral density (BMD) at the lumbar spine in women and at the hip in men. Writing in the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “is therefore possible that carotenoids explain part of the previously observed protective effects of fruit and vegetable intake on BMD.” Source: The new study is published in the July 2009 issue of the journal Osteoporosis International.