Vitamin D and bone health

Vitamin D is an important nutrient to strengthen bones and prevent fractures and osteoporosis. It works in combination with calcium and phosphorus to create new bone fragments and remove old ones to improve your bone strength and agility.

Why is it important for bone health?

Vitamin D is a bit like a traffic signal; it helps to regulate calcium levels, controlling when more calcium should be released by bones due to low levels of circulating calcium in the blood, or to help your gut absorb more calcium when foods rich in calcium are consumed. However, if you aren’t getting enough vitamin D it can reduce the amount of calcium being absorbed and promote the release of calcium from your bones.  This can weaken them and increase your risk of fracture or osteoporosis.

Where can I get it?

You can get vitamin D from sunlight as our skin absorbs the UV light to produce vitamin D and stores it for later use. However, many factors impact the amount of vitamin D you absorb from the sun such as the season (think about those short winter days with less sunshine!), time of day, skin pigmentation and age. As you get older, your skin will lose its ability to absorb and convert sunlight to vitamin D which means you will have to rely on dietary sources or supplementation to obtain your daily vitamin D requirements. Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, tuna, milk (including soy), egg yolks and fortified cereals and breads.

Who’s at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is common – in fact, studies have suggested that approximately 50% of people globally are vitamin D deficient! There are a range of factors that influence sufficient intake. People who don’t get enough sunlight, either from spending too much time indoors or covering their skin when outdoors, and those who have a darker skin pigmentation are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency.  People who have excess body fat and those who have malabsorptive conditions such as Crohn’s disease or gastrointestinal surgery may also have an increased risk.

How much do I need?

It is recommended for women aged 19 to 50 years old to have an adequate Intake (AI) of 5µg/day.  Due to an increased risk of osteoporosis after menopause, requirements then increase to 10µg/day.  At the age of 70 years, the recommend daily intake increases up to 15µg/day for women.  Although vitamin D needs may be met by spending 15-30 minutes in the sun, and eating a vitamin-D diet, if you’re not meeting requirements you may benefit from vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D is essential to help strengthen your bones and maintain the calcium levels in your body. It also reduces your likelihood of having osteoporosis or weakened bones. If you are concerned about your vitamin D intake, make an appointment with a healthcare professional for personalised advice.