Vitamin D Bone Health Calcium

Vitamin D and calcium work together to help your body build strong bones. Without vitamin D, your body is unable to absorb the calcium it needs to build and repair bones.

Unlike most vitamins, which people get through a combination of food and supplements, your body can make vitamin D itself. When your skin is exposed to the UV rays in the sun, your body can create vitamin D. However, many people have low vitamin D levels, which can lead to a number of health problems.

How Vitamin D and Calcium Work Together

Your body uses a combination of calcium and phosphorus to build and repair bones. However, just getting calcium alone isn’t enough for bone health. Vitamin D is also needed to help your body can absorb calcium. When vitamin D levels are insufficient, your body may also begin excreting calcium from bones, which can further contribute to bone health problems.

Why Do I Need Calcium and Vitamin D?

If you don’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, your bone health can suffer. In children, low vitamin D and calcium levels can lead to rickets, a condition characterized by softened and weakened bones. In adults, rickets is called osteomalacia.

Osteomalacia - Vitamin D and Calcium - Bone Health

Long-term vitamin deficiency can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. People with this vitamin deficiency aren’t absorbing enough calcium, even if their dietary intake is adequate. Eventually, this leads to the brittle, fracture-prone bones characteristic of osteoporosis.

How Much Calcium and Vitamin D Do I Need?

Currently, the Institute of Medicine recommends that people get between 200 and 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D each day, depending on age. Older adults need more vitamin D than younger individuals. However, some people think that vitamin D intake should be higher, with the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommending between 800 and 1,000 IU a day for adults over age 50. Adults over the age of 18 also need 1,000 mg of calcium each day, with people over the age of 50 needing about 1,200 mg each day.

Sun exposure is the easiest and most efficient way to get vitamin D. Most people can get all the vitamin D they need by getting 15 to 30 minutes of direct sun exposure a few times a week. Vitamin D is also found in certain foods, such as tuna, salmon, eggs and fortified milk. Vitamin D supplements are also an option for people who aren’t getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure and dietary sources.

 

Resources

 

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2009). Nutrition and bone health. Retrieved December 22, 2009 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition.

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2009). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the National Institutes of Health website: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (n.d.). Vitamin D and Bone Health. Retrieved December 21, 2009 from the National Osteoporosis Foundation website: http://www.nof.org/prevention/vitaminD.htm.