I heard adults should bump up their vitamin C if they break a bone. How much should I take for a wrist fracture that happened about two weeks ago?
There is some evidence that vitamin C speeds up the fracture healing process -- by as much as 50 per cent. That means instead of taking six weeks to heal, some fractures healed in half that time (three weeks) simply by taking vitamin C supplements.
But there haven't been enough studies to really iron out all the details on who should take how much for each type of bone break. And there can be some negative effects of too much vitamin C for some patients such as diarrhea and abdominal bloating -- so the exact dosage might vary from person to person.
Two very important studies investigating the use of vitamin C with distal radial (wrist) fractures have been published in the last 10 years. The researchers used distal radial fractures because there's a high percentage of patients who develop complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) with this type of fracture.
Let's define a few terms here starting with distal radius. There are two bones in the forearm that help make up the wrist joint (radius and ulna). The proximal end of those two bones is closest to the elbow. The distal end refers to the bottom of the bone at the wrist. The radius is on the thumb side of the wrist.
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a common problem after distal radial fractures but no one knows why exactly. The patient develops wrist and hand pain, swelling, and skin color changes. The pain and swelling are accompanied by a loss of motion and function. There can even be changes in skin temperature (warm or cold) and increased hair growth on the arm compared to the other (healthy) side.
By comparing two groups with wrist fractures (those taking Vitamin C and patients who didn't take the vitamin), it was clear that the group taking the vitamin had far fewer cases of CRPS. The group taking vitamin C in these two studies were further divided by how much (dosage) they took. Some took 200 mg daily, others 500 mg, and a third portion took 1500 mg of vitamin C.
The results showed that 200 mg wasn't enough to make a difference. That's about how much the average person gets just through diet with four to five servings of fruits and vegetables. A difference wasn't observed until patients took 500 mg. That's called a beneficial dose-response. No further benefits were seen when patients took more than 500 mg of Vitamin C each day.
A daily dose of 500 mg is advised for a period of 50 days. That's about seven weeks and without any complicating factors, the average fracture heals within six weeks' time. Not everyone should bump up their vitamin C intake. For example, patients with diabetes are at an increased risk for kidney stones if they take too much vitamin C. It's best to consult with your doctor about his or her recommendations for you.