Vitamin D and Bone Health

It’s amazing to think that upwards of 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, yet this hormone (it’s not actually a vitamin) is critical for keeping bones and muscles strong and working the way that they should. Vitamin D is, in fact, the catalyst for absorbing calcium, an important part of long-term bone heath.

Chronically low levels of vitamin D in middle-aged and elderly patients may increase the risk of osteoporosis, where bones lose calcium, leading to weak or brittle bones that can more easily fracture.

Why We Are Vitamin D Deficient

There are several reasons why Americans are deficient in vitamin D.

  • Our skin synthesizes vitamin D during exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun. With modern lifestyles and work situations keeping us indoors more often, it can be difficult to get enough sun exposure.
  • Increased use of sunscreen (never a bad idea) has reduced the incidence of skin cancer but also blocks most UV rays from hitting the skin, thus reducing vitamin D production.
  • We typically cannot get enough vitamin D from food alone. While some foods, such as milks and cereals are fortified with vitamin D, they still contain less than what we need to keep levels appropriate.
  • Some people, even if they do spend plenty of time outdoors, simply do not process vitamin D as easily as others.

What is the solution?

First, it is important to understand if we do indeed have a vitamin D deficiency. This is determined with a quick blood test. If a deficiency does exist, a treatment plan will be implemented in conjunction with your doctor.

For many, the solution is in the form of a vitamin D supplement, which is readily available at most health food stores. Supplementing with vitamin D can help with bone growth in children, bone density maintenance and adults and can even improve mental function and ward off depression. Those who are suffering from excess weight or obesity may require more supplementation than their normal-weight counterparts. However, only take the dose of vitamin D supplementation per your doctor’s orders.

As a side note, there is some reason to believe that vitamin D can assist the body in fighting off infections, including COVID-19. While we cannot yet come to a definitive conclusion, the safety profile of vitamin D is such that maintaining proper levels in the body certainly cannot hurt and in fact should be promoted as a way to avoid many deficiency-related problems.

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