Nutrition & bone health
Vitamin D: its benefits are more than ever imagined
by Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
Known for almost a century as the “sunshine vitamin” for bone health, new research reveals that vitamin D is good for more than bone... much, much more. In fact, current research from around the world documents that not just osteoporosis, but an astonishing number of diseases, are caused or worsened by insufficient vitamin D. Further, studies show that attaining optimum vitamin D blood levels provides protection from these disorders and aids in their healing.
Benefits for bone health
Vitamin D, and specifically the hormone our body produces from vitamin D, is the body’s most important regulator of calcium absorption. Indeed, scientists now know that people low in vitamin D absorb 65% less calcium than those with adequate levels of this vitamin. Subsequently, needless osteoporotic fractures are much more common in folks with low levels of vitamin D, and the incidence of fractures can be dramatically reduced with vitamin D supplementation. For example, a recent study in the United Kingdom found that 95% of those suffering a hip fracture were deficient in vitamin D, while other research in the UK and the US documents that simple daily supplementation with 800 IU vitamin D3 with some calcium can often reduce hip fracture incidence by 33 to 50%. (For a review of the literature on vitamin D and fracture reduction, see my article in the March 2008 Alternative Medicine Review.)
Even more, three major vitamin D researchers now suggest that with adequate vitamin D supplementation, we could prevent 50-60% of all osteoporotic fractures.
Benefits for muscles helping to protect bone
Recently it has been discovered that muscle cells, as well as bone and many other cells, have receptors for the active form of vitamin D. It is now clear that vitamin D maintains the function of muscle fibers, thus preserving muscle strength and neuromuscular coordination. This results in stronger muscles, improved muscle function, better balance, and fewer falls among those with an adequate vitamin D level as compared to those who are deficient in this nutrient. Several large studies now show a 20 to 50% reduction in falls with the daily use of 800 IU vitamin D. Preventing falls among the elderly prevents fracture and other injuries. Also, if you have weak muscles and experience bone pain, consider vitamin D. Bone pain and muscle weakness are typical symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
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Original Publication Date: 01/15/2009
Last Modified: 07/10/2012
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD