Vitamin D and the Elderly

Do you get your Vitamin D? Hopefully you do because according to Dr. Fuhrman it’s a pretty important vitamin with a very vital function. He explains in the Importance of Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body makes after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Vitamin D functions as a hormone because it sends a message to the intestines to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. By promoting calcium absorption, vitamin D helps to form and maintain strong bones.
Not to mention it’s instrumental in the maintaining of strong healthy bones. Dr. Fuhrman talks about this further in Can Your Bones Last a Lifetime: Benefits of Vitamin D:
Medical studies show taking vitamin D is more effective than taking extra calcium for osteoporosis. In a recent 3-year prospective multi-center study, 622 women with osteoporosis, 50 to 79 years of age, who had one or more compression fractures of their spine, were randomly assigned to receive 25 mcg of calcitriol (900 IU vitamin D) or 1000 mg calcium for three years. In the third year, the vitamin D-supplemented group had 9 fractures per 100 women, and the calcium-treated group had 31.5.The difference in effect also was evident after two years.
Apparently he must be on to something because new research links Vitamin D intake to physical performance levels in the elderly. Eric Nagourney of The New York Times reports:
The researchers, led by Denise K. Houston of Wake Forest University, drew on data from an Italian study in which more than 900 people 65 and older were tested for vitamin D levels and asked to perform several tasks. The researchers looked at how fast they walked, how quickly they could get out of a chair and how well they could balance.


By some estimates, about a quarter of elderly people do not get enough vitamin D. But it is not purely a matter of diet, the researchers said, because much of the body’s vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Older people may be less likely to be in the sun, said the researchers, who also pointed out that skin produces vitamin D less well as it ages.
Now, it isn’t just older people who need to be mindful of how much Vitamin D they’re getting. Dr. Fuhrman insists everyone should make sure they’re getting enough. From Vitamin D and Cancer:
Laboratory, animal, and epidemiologic evidence suggests that vitamin D may be protective against cancer. Epidemiologic studies suggest that a higher dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D, and/or sunlight-induced vitamin D synthesis, correlates with lower incidence of cancer, including lymphoma, breast, prostate, and colon cancer.1 In fact, for over 60 years, researchers have observed an inverse association between sun exposure and cancer mortality,2 and those with more sun exposure had fewer cancers. The inverse relationship between higher vitamin D levels in blood and lower cancer risk in humans shows a significantly lower risk among those with the highest vitamin D intake.
1. Martinez ME, Willett WC. Calcium, vitamin D, and colorectal cancer: a review of the epidemiologic evidence. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev 1998;7:163-68. Lieberman DA, Prindiville S, Weiss DG, Willett W. Risk factors for advanced colonic neoplasia and hyperplastic polyps in asymptomatic individuals. J Am Med Assoc 2003; 290:2959-67.

2. Heaney RP. Long-latency deficiency disease: insights from calcium and vitamin D. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:912-9.
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Kirsten - May 7, 2007 9:55 AM

All more reasons to get outside and enjoy some of that lovely spring weather! I am firmly in the camp of avoiding any use of chemical sunscreens and respectfully using sun-power for our bodies (avoiding peak sun, big hats, not washing protective oils from our skin when exposed, etc.).

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