Vitamin D and Osteoporosis

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International experts on medicine are weighing in on what we should all be aiming for: to treat and prevent osteoporosis. The targets: calcium and vitamin D. With the widespread implications of this bone-weakening disease, we would do well to all know what they are thinking.

In late November, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences released new recommendations on dietary reference intakes for vitamin D across all age categories. The report from this U.S. institution is based on all the research they could find, high-quality studies, which supported people using calcium and vitamin D to improve bone health.

The IOM found that all adults should aim for 600 international units (IU) a day, and adults over 70 should aim for 800 IU a day.

Vitamin D deficiency itself is an important health issue to address, as it has been linked to the development of osteoporosis and hip fractures, as well as other skeletal and non-skeletal disorders. (And, not to mention, a slew of diseases throughout the body. )

The IOM recommendations for your daily intake of vitamin D have increased since 1997, which osteoporosis experts have commended. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), meanwhile, is busy trying to reduce the burden of vitamin D deficiency worldwide.

This past April, IOF published global recommendations for vitamin D in older adults, the age group most at risk of osteoporosis. The IOF advised higher daily intakes for older adults in the range of 800 to 1,000 IU per day.

It’s important to note that the amount needed per day varies per person. Some who get good exposure to the sun each day will require less vitamin D, for example. On the other hand, those who are overweight or obese would need more vitamin D. There are many other factors, some unidentified, that might play a role as well. This means it’s important to check with your family doctor on what level of vitamin D intake is best for your particular case.

However, in general, the IOM says an older adult can safely take doses of 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D. You should consult your doctor before you take a dose that high, though, as once you start getting over 1,500 IU a day, you would be doing so to directly fight a disease.

The IOF says the IOM vitamin D recommendations won’t cover the needs of high-risk seniors. Obese individuals, those with osteoporosis, those with limited sun exposure, and those who have absorption problems are all likely to need more vitamin D.

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