Vitamin D Bone Health Osteoporosis

Vitamin D and Osteoporosis Image

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by brittle, porous bones. Low levels of vitamin D and calcium contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Over time, these low calcium and vitamin D levels lead to weak bones that are prone to fracture. In people with extreme cases of osteoporosis, even minor stress (such as coughing) can cause a bone to break.

Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D helps to prevent osteoporosis. That’s because your body needs vitamin D to build and repair bones. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your body is unable to absorb the calcium it needs to create bone mass.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body needs to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Unlike other vitamins, which you get from dietary sources of supplements, your body can make vitamin D on its own when it’s exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

Vitamin D plays an important role in overall bone health. However, up to 70 percent of women between the ages of 51 and 70 aren’t getting enough vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Connection Between Vitamin D and Osteoporosis

A variety of factors can contribute to the eventual development of osteoporosis. These include low calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency and lack of exercise. Other osteoporosis risk factors include a history of smoking or eating disorders, excessive alcohol use and use of certain medications.

When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your body can’t absorb calcium. That means that even if you thought your were getting enough calcium from your diet, a vitamin deficiency might mean that you weren’t actually absorbing all that calcium. Over time, lack of vitamin D means less calcium is absorbed, which contributes to weak bones. In addition, low vitamin D levels can also cause your body to lose bone mass.

It’s important to get enough vitamin D and calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D is especially important for teen bone health, since adolescence is a peak period for bone mass formation. Older adults also need to get enough vitamin D and calcium to maintain bone mineral density.

Preventing Osteoporosis with Vitamin D

A combination of vitamin D, calcium and exercise will help prevent the development of osteoporosis. Recommendations for daily vitamin D intake vary. Currently, the Institute of Medicine recommends between 200 and 600 IU (international units) for adults, each day. However, up to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily is safe for adults. Adults also need between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium each day, depending on age. In addition, regular strength training and weight-bearing exercise helps to build strong bones.

Resources

American Medical Women’s Association Staff. (2005). D-bunking the role of vitamin D in bone health. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from the American Medical Women’s Association website: http://www.amwa-doc.org/index.cfm?objectid=97141F72-D567-0B25-5E6E71C12C78F497

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements Staff. (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 Staff. (n.d.). Vitamin D and bone health. Retrieved December 21, 2009, from the National Osteoporosis Foundation website: http://www.nof.org/prevention/vitaminD.htm