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Vitamin D is the rage these days, but does it improve your bone health?

Vitamin D is the rage these days, but does it improve your bone health?

Vitamin D Is the Rage These Days

Vitamin D seems to be all the rage these days. Dietary supplements seem to go in and out of vogue like fashion trends. So, the question is vitamin D the real deal? Does it really improve bone health? Can it cure osteoporosis? How much should you take? Well, let’s try and clear things up.

How
Vitamin D Keeps Your Bones Healthy

Bones are made up of many minerals, and of these, calcium is the most important. Calcium makes bones strong and prevents them from breaking. Vitamin D is essential to help your bones absorb calcium. If you don’t have adequate levels of vitamin D in your blood, you may not absorb enough calcium to keep your bones healthy. Although vitamin D is important for maintaining bone health, it doesn’t cure osteoporosis. Vitamin D has also been shown to maintain muscle strength as we age, which in turn improves balance and the risk of falls. Fewer falls means fewer fractures!

Get Your Vitamin D!

Vitamin D is described in international units, or IU. Recommendations on how much our bodies need vary a great deal. These are the current recommendations developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy:

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D)

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactation

0–12 months*

400 IU
(10 mcg)

400 IU
(10 mcg)

 

 

1–13 years

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

 

 

14–18 years

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

19–50 years

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

51–70 years

600 IU
(15 mcg)

600 IU
(15 mcg)

 

 

>70 years

800 IU
(20 mcg)

800 IU
(20 mcg)

 

 

Sources of Vitamin D

Food

Some people find it difficult to get the recommended amounts of vitamin D through diet alone. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are the richest food-based source of vitamin D. Small amounts of vitamin D can also be found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, which means manufacturers add vitamin D to the foods. These include some cereals, milk, yogurt, and orange juice.

Sunlight

Researchers have found that five to 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight can provide ample vitamin D. The use of sunscreen, cloud cover, time of the year, and pollution can all affect the amount of vitamin D absorbed, however. We know ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to certain types of skin cancers, so sunlight may not be the safest way to get your vitamin D.

Dietary Supplements

Most dietary supplements you can purchase at the store are vitamin D3. Multivitamins often contain some vitamin D as well. Some studies have shown that taking vitamin D with a fatty meal improves absorption. Supplements can help you reach your recommended intake of vitamin D if you’re unable to get adequate vitamin D through your diet.

People at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Older adults
  • People with limited sun exposure
  • People with dark skin
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions that cause malabsorption of fat
  • People who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery

Testing for Vitamin D Deficiency

The only way to truly know if you’re deficient in vitamin D is to get a simple blood test, which measures in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The normal range according to Intermountain’s laboratory is 30-80 ng/mL. Some say it’s best to aim for levels of 50-80 ng/mL.

How to Treat Vitamin D Deficiency

If your vitamin D levels in your blood are low, your healthcare provider will recommend supplements. The dosage depends on your blood levels and other health concerns. Often providers will recommend doses higher than the recommended dosages in the table above. Most adults shouldn’t take more than 4,000 IU daily.

Get Your Vitamin D Level Checked

Talk to your healthcare provider about getting your vitamin D levels checked, especially if you’ve broken a bone or have osteoporosis. Or you’re welcome to make an appointment at the TOSH Healthy Bones Clinic for more information.