Menopausal Women Need to be Vigilant about Vitamin D Intake

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So are you getting your vitamin D? Unfortunately, some international reports are finding that women who are going through menopause may not be getting enough of this critical vitamin.

    One study out of Spain followed 3,574 women, ages 45-68, who were in perimenopause as well as those who were postmenopausal. The researchers looked at these women’s diets over a 10-month period. The results found that the women consumed the recommended intake of all vitamins, with the exception of vitamins D and E. reported, “The case of vitamin D is striking given that none of the groups reached 50% of their RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). The average total intake was 2.14 micrograms per day, which constitutes just 39% of the RDA for women of this age group.” However, another report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies that came out last year found that most Americans get sufficient vitamin D through sun exposure. However, some groups, including older people and those with darker skin, may not be getting enough of this valuable vitamin. Even though they differ, these two studies serve as a good reminder about what you need to do to stay healthy as you age.

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    So, let’s go back to nutrition class to learn more about vitamin D. According to The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health, this vitamin is important because it promotes calcium absorption and is needed for bone growth and bone health. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, your bones can become thin, brittle or misshapen. Furthermore, as you get older, you need vitamin D and calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D also modulates cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. A 2008 US News story also credited this vitamin D for fighting cancer. “Compelling evidence suggests taking vitamin D supplements results in a reduction of common cancers – including breast, prostate, and colon tumors – particularly when in people with low initial levels of vitamin D,” the story noted.

    The Office of Dietary Supplements stated that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Although it’s rarely present in foods, it often is an additive and also is available as a dietary supplement. Your body can also produce vitamin D through being exposed to sunlight. However, the agency reported that older adults are at increased risk of developing a deficiency because their skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently and they may spend more time indoors. Furthermore, older adults also may not ingest adequate amounts. There are other groups who also may have a deficiency, including people with dark skin, people who have limited sun exposure (such as those who are homebound or women who wear long robes and head coverings for religious reasons), people with fat malabsorption, and people who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

    So how can you get more vitamin D? As I mentioned earlier, few foods in nature actually contain vitamin D. The best natural sources are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, as well as fish liver oils. You also can find small amounts of vitamin D in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and specific mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions. However, many foods found in the United States have been fortified with this vitamin. These foods include milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine. However, dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, often are not fortified so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re getting your vitamin D from these sources.


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    Another way to get this nutrient is through taking a supplement. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies recommends that most adults take 600 international units of vitamin D a day while adults over 70 need 800 international units. Women over the age of 51 also need to take 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Until that time, women need to take 1,000 daily.

Published On: November 11, 2011