Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

The Importance of Vitamin D

Photo by Ales Krivec

It’s winter and most of us are not getting enough sun! The sun provides us with a very important vitamin….vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is needed so the body can use calcium and phosphorus to build bones and support healthy tissues. Vitamin D is important for immunity and bone health. It has been shown to prevent bone loss, depression, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. About half of the popuation in the world have vitamin D deficiency which highlights the importance of awareness of this condition.

Sources of vitamin D

  • Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D-spend more time outdoors(but remember to use sunscreen)
  • Eat vitamin D rich foods-yogurt, egg yolks, fatty fish, fortified cereals, fortified milk and juice
  • Dietary supplements for those with low levels. There is also prescription medications available for those with severe deficiency which your doctor can order if needed.
    • Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed by a blood test of 25 hydroxy vitamin D level
      • Levels of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) or above are adequate for most people for bone and overall health.
      • Levels below 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL) are too low and might weaken your bones and affect your health.
      • Levels above 125 nmol/L (50 ng/mL) are too high and might cause health problems.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • bone pain
  • depression
  • hair loss
  • loss of appetite
  • sleeping difficulty

Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

  • breastfed infants as vitamin D content of human milk is low
  • older adults-age causes a decline in the skin’s ability to make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight
  • people who seldom go outside to get sunlight such as nursing home residents
  • darker skin-the darker your skin, the less vitamin D you make from sunlight
  • Conditions that limit fat absorption-celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colits