Combatting Vitamin D Deficiencies in Adults

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Vitamin D is an essential nutrient. Deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to increased risks of developing colon, breast and prostate cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases, muscle wekaness and bone loss. We receive most of our Vitamin D from the sun. But, according to the New York Times, “a huge part of the population - from robust newborns to the frail elderly, and many others in between - are deficient in this essential nutrient.” [1]

    Vitamin D Deficiencies in Those Age 55 and Older

    A recent Dutch study showed that those older than 55 with a Vitamin D deficiency may have problems completing daily tasks, such as:

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    • Walking up and down stairs
    • Dressing and undressing
    • Sitting and getting up from a chair
    • Walking outside for 5 minutes without resting

    The study looked at data on 725 individuals with a mean age of 60 and 1,237 individuals with a mean age of 75 - with approximately 45 percent of participants having a Vitamin D deficiency. Researchers found that more than half of the older individuals reported at least one functional limitation and about one-third of the younger individuals reported at least one functional limitation.

    After researchers adjusted for age, gender, body mass index, chronic diseases, education and level of urbanization, they could link the Vitamin D deficiency to the functional limitations. [2]

    Sunscreen and Vitamin D

    Sunscreen is important in the fight against skin cancer. But wearing sunscreen and blocking the sun’s rays also decreases your Vitamin D. According to the Vitamin D Council, “People who cover their skin all of the time, for example, if you wear sunscreen of if your skin is covered with clothes” are some of those who are more likely to be lacking in Vitamin D.

    But that doesn’t mean you should give up on sunscreen when outdoors. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays have been linked to skin cancer and premature aging of skin. Using sunscreen helps to minimize your risks of developing skin cancer.

    Making Sure You Get Enough Vitamin D

    Some foods contain Vitamin D and it is good to make sure your diet includes fortified milk and yogurt and fish such as salmon, trout, halibut and tuna. But it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone. Adults up to age 70 should get 100 IU of Vitamin D each day, over the age of 70 this amount goes up to 800 IU. An 8 ounce glass of milk has 120 IU of Vitamin D and a 3 ounce can of tuna has 100 IU.

    Some doctors recommend spending a short amount of time in the sun, unprotected. But it is difficult to say for how long. Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University, suggests going outside in the summer months between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 times per week - although he recommends using sunscreen on your face. [3] However, those with darker skin need more sun exposure to make the same amount of Vitamin D as fair skinned people, so the amount of exposure would vary depending on skin color, the amount of skin exposed and where you live. The good news is that you can produce enough Vitamin D during the summer months to last the entire year.

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    The best way to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D, however, is to take supplements. For adults, a supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 IU is recommended by Dr. Holick. While your body gets rid of excess Vitamin D when you get it naturally - through exposure to the sun - that doesn’t happen when you take supplements. Toxic amounts of Vitamin D include nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, constipation and weakness, although Dr. Holick indicates that “it is very hard to reach such toxic levels.” [4]


    “Am I Deficient in Vitamin D?” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Vitamin D Council

    [2] “Low Vitamin D in 50s Linked to Disability,” 2013, July 17, Todd Neale, MedPage Today

    [1] [3] [4] “What Do You Lack? Probably Vitamin D,” 2010, Jane E. Brody, New York Times

Published On: July 23, 2013