Why seniors need Vitamin D.
In adults, the result of a Vitamin D deficiency can be softened bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis). If you have too little Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus in your blood will decrease. To help maintain stable blood levels, calcium will leach out of your bones. You don’t want that.
Canadian and US governments conclude – higher dosages of Vitamin D necessary
2010, the Canadian and U.S. governments reported on a study that looked at the effects of Vitamin D and calcium on skeletal health. It also examined claims of health benefits in other parts of the body.
The findings triggered an increase in recommended intake levels of vitamin D. Taken with calcium, Vitamin D will help strengthen our bones. But does it affect our bodies in other ways too?
Dutch study finds low Vitamin D related to loss of functions in seniors
Certain things we do are benchmarks of our physical capability. Many of them depend on muscle mass, and Vitamin D positively influences muscle mass, strength and performance. These activities include:
- stair climbing
- dressing and undressing ourselves
- sitting and standing from a chair
- cutting our own toenails
- walking outside for 5 minutes without resting
- driving our vehicle or using public transportation.
The report in in 2013 revealed a correlation between low Vitamin D levels in the blood and these basic life functions going downhill.
The Institute of Medicine report states that there is no additional health benefit associated with vitamin D intakes above the level of the new DRI.
Keep your total daily vitamin D intake below the level of the new Tolerable Upper Intake Level to avoid possible adverse effects. Long-term intakes above the UIL increase the risk. (Too much
Vitamin D can result in too much calcium in the body. That can calcify the kidneys and other soft tissues, including the heart, lungs and blood vessels.) See the chart of daily vitamin D intake levels
Vitamin D is “the sunshine vitamin” – does a senior confined indoors need more?
Not according to the Institute of Health study. The scientists based the DRIs above on minimum sun exposure. These levels ensure that a senior would not need any sun exposure to obtain enough Vitamin D.
The Institute of Medicine in the U.S. doesn’t make any recommendation about exposing oneself to real sunshine because of concerns about cancer.
Seniors should get most of their Vitamin D in their food
Vitamin D essential to bone health in seniors. We need to eat fortified foods to build a solid foundation of Vitamin D in our body. The only natural sources of vitamin D in the Canadian food supply, according to Health Canada, are fatty fish and egg yolks.
Regulations require Canada’s dairy producers to fortify cow’s milk and margarine with Vitamin D. Food producers may fortify goat’s milk, plant-based beverages such as soy beverages and calcium-based orange juice. Cheese makers can use Vitamin D-fortified milk, but the resulting cheeses don’t contain as much Vitamin D as fluid milk does. Fluid milk is a major dietary source of Vitamin D.
There’s a remarkable range of dairy products and soy-based alternatives available today. They include not only low-fat products, but lactose-free milk and pro-biotic yogurts that can aid digestion. It should be possible to accommodate the dietary needs of the senior you’re concerned about and still assure that he or she consumes enough Vitamin D.
What form of Vitamin D – capsule or liquid?
In the words of the Vitamin D Council, “Vitamin D from both capsules and liquid is equally effective in treating vitamin D deficiency.” Some argue that the body assimilates the liquid form better, but there’s no evidence to support this. Many, of course, will find it easier to take a drop of liquid Vitamin D on the tongue than to swallow a capsule.
Overall, Vitamin D is an essential part of bone health, especially for seniors.
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In summary: Vitamin D is essential to bone health in seniors. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to softened or fragile bones and has also been linked to a deterioration of functions, in seniors, that depend on muscle mass. New guidelines recommend an increase in Vitamin D intake.