Are you getting enough vitamin D? It is vital you do! This super vitamin, which the skin produces in response to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, is not only important for strong healthy bones, it is also necessary for your overall health. It’s an essential factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well, and it helps your body fight cancer.
Low levels of vitamin D have been found to be very common in the United States and Canada, resulting in significant health problems.1 Vitamin D insufficiency is now recognized as a pandemic, affecting 30-50 percent of the population.1,2 Vitamin D insufficiency is a key contributor to many human diseases including several cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, cognitive decline, and autoimmune diseases.1,3
It is estimated that over 50 million adults in the United States either have, or are at risk of developing, osteoporosis.4 Osteoporosis is a condition where you lose too much bone or don’t make enough bone to replace the bone that you normally lose. If you lose too much bone, your bones become less dense and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis have low bone density. Maintaining vitamin D sufficiency is crucial for bone health, and a key feature in a strategy to prevent osteoporosis.
Vitamin D’s Role in Bone Health
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. Vitamin D also stimulates osteoblastic (bone-building cells) activity. Vitamin D deficiency results in diminished calcium absorption and has been linked to a higher incidence of osteoporosis-related bone fractures seen in postmenopausal women and older Americans.3,5
There have been claims that vitamin D supplementation is unnecessary for bone health. A 2015 analysis pooled many studies and stated the conclusion that vitamin D supplementation does not reduce the risk of falls or other negative outcomes by 15 percent or more.6
However, there are details to be considered. This analysis did not take into account D2 vs. D3, and also did not group studies by the dose of vitamin D. A previous pooled analysis, which analyzed studies based on the dose of vitamin D, established that dose matters. This analysis considered the actual intake of vitamin D, not just whether or not the person had been assigned to the supplement group. In this analysis, there was a 30 percent reduction in hip fracture rate at the highest level of vitamin D intake (792-2000 IU) in the supplement groups compared to the control groups. 7,8