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The Importance of Vitamin D for Seniors

Lack of Vitamin D has been linked to poor bone health, muscle impairments, reduced immune function, higher body fat levels, and etc. This micronutrient is a big deal and it has a wide impact on our health.

Vitamin D can be ingested from our foods or supplements and it can be made in the skin. The body can actually synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure and this is our major source of the Vitamin. To be accurate it is structured more like a hormone than an actual vitamin. It is stored in the body’s fat tissue. The prevalence of low levels of vitamin D has become more and more common.

This can possibly be attributed to several factors such as decreased outdoor time and decreased consumption of Vitamin D rich foods.

The deficiencies and toxicities of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K) are shown over a slower and more gradual time compared to (B,C, and E) since it can be stored in the body’s own fat stores. Supplementation with Vitamin D can be toxic if doses exceed 10.000 IU’s daily. Always consult with your physician before supplementing with Vitamin D. The largest contributor of Vitamin D is the body’s skin. You can not get too much Vitamin D from sun exposure since the body regulates how much it produces. There is, however, other negative effects from getting too much sun exposure which should be considered.

The amount of Vitamin D that’s synthesized depends on how much UVB exposure you get and how much of your skin is exposed to the sun. The UVB will change depending on how far away the equator you are, what time of day it is, cloud coverage, and etc. Getting some sun exposure on a daily basis is very good for your vitamin D status. How much is needed is very hard to say due to the changes in UVB radiation. If you spend the majority of your time inside then this could be an issue. Avoid too much sun exposure that would result in redness or sunburns.

The Importance of Vitamin D for SeniorsDietary sources that contain Vitamin D are:

  • Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, halibut, cod liver, etc.)

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Beef liver

  • Cheese

  • Egg yolks

  • Legumes

A lot of foods today are fortified with vitamin D such as cereal and milk. These additions of vitamin D are helpful, however, if you rely on cereal to get your vitamin D you will likely end up short. To reach an adequate level from fortified food products would require a very large intake of the products which could have negative effects on it’s own. An average bowl of cereal might contain around 50 IUs of vitamin D. With the daily recommended intake being 600 IUs you would need to eat 10+ servings. This shows how fortifying foods are positive, however, they can not be considered a good source of vitamin D. Compared to salmon you only need 3 oz to get 450 IUs of vitamin D.

Adequate levels of Vitamin D has been shown to help with muscle function. Being strong and independent is crucial for overall health and well-being. In a large study with over 2400 people Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 19% reduced risk of falling. The study participants were all over 65 years old and their intake was 700-1000IUs of Vitamin D. This dose is well below the toxic level. This could potentially help avoid some serious injuries that can be sustained from falling. The reduced risk of falling is probably caused by better muscle health and strength which improves balance.

In a different study performed on overweight women should another potentially positive benefit. The study included 77 women. Half of them were given a Vitamin D supplement (1000IUs) and the lost significantly more body fat compared to the control group. The women did not go actively change anything in the diet. The weight loss was not drastic but it was significant compared to the group that went without Vitamin D.

VItamin D is usually sold in 2 different forms of Vitamin D. It will either be D2 or D3. The one that has been shown to absorb the best is Vitamin D3. This form is a little bit more expensive, however, since it absorbs more efficiently it should be the best choice.

The positive benefits from Vitamin D are substantial and it’s something you need to pay attention to. Daily sun exposure will help ensure that your levels are accurate. Please be cautious in warmer and sunnier conditions as getting too much sun can have negative health effects.

Sources
Fall risk – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19797342
Fat loss in women – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998754

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Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Director of Training and Head Coach at CrossFit TNT
M.S Human Performance from Lindenwood University

B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University

Started CrossFit in 2010.

Favorite thing about what I do:

To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence

Credentials:

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association

CF L1 Coach

CF L2 Coach

CF Endurance

CF Weightlifting

CF Mobility

CF Gymnastics

USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach

CPR Certified
Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

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