Drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice every day could nearly halve the risk of hip fractures, new research shows.
A major study of more than 10,000 people found it strengthened bones and protected against breaks.
The secret, researchers say, is vitamin C – also found in abundance in tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit and broccoli.
A study of more than 10,000 people has found bones are strengthened by vitamin C, found in oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit and broccoli
Volunteers consuming the highest amount of vitamin C every day were much less likely to suffer fractures.
The findings, in the journal Osteoporosis International, could help to tackle a major health burden for the NHS.
Around 65,000 people a year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland suffer a hip fracture – which usually involves a break in the top part of the thigh bone, or femur.
Most are frail or elderly people who have some degree of osteoporosis – the age-related condition that leaves bones brittle and affects more than three million people in the UK.
The NHS spends around £4.6m a day treating fractures resulting from falls, and hip fractures alone cost hospitals over £1bn a year.
Some experts fear the bill is set to multiply as Britain’s population ages.
Vitamin C is believed to protect against fragile bones by stimulating cells that become mature bone cells
Scientists at Zhengzhou University in China pooled data from six previous studies on vitamin C and fracture risk.
This technique, called a meta-analysis, is a way of producing stronger findings when only small studies have previously been carried out.
They looked at vitamin C intake among 2,899 hip fracture patients and compared the results with 7,908 healthy volunteers of a similar age.
The results revealed that for every 50 milligrammes a day of vitamin C intake – roughly one medium-sized orange, or a quarter of a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice – the risk of a fracture dropped by five per cent.
This means an average glass containing eight fluid ounces of juice could potentially reduce the risk by 20 per cent and two glasses by 40 per cent.
Vitamin C is thought to protect against fragile bones by stimulating cells called osteoblasts to become mature bone cells.
The Department of Health recommends adults get at least 40mg of vitamin C a day.
Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, which the study found prevents bone breaks
Daily consumption is essential as the body does not store the vitamin.
In a report on their findings scientists said: “Our results strongly support the idea that increasing dietary vitamin C can decrease the risk of hip fracture.”
Earlier this year a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found eating oranges, grapefruits or lemons packed with citric acid also cut the risk of dementia by almost a quarter.
Citric acid contains a chemical called nobiletin which, during animal tests, has been shown to slow or reverse impairment of memory.