Vitamin D deficiency is alarmingly common among women in nursing homes and is associated with an increased risk of death. A study of nearly 1,000 female nursing home residents found that 284 (30%) of the patients died within an average of 27 months. The researchers also found that almost 93% had lower-than-recommended vitamin D levels.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D normalizes your body’s calcium and phosphorus absorption and assists your immune system function. This vitamin is essential for strong bones. Vitamin D has 2 forms: D2 (from foods you eat) and D3 (from sun exposure).
Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for bone problems. Without enough Vitamin D, you can experience bone loss and increase your chances of breaking bones because of low bone density.
Is Vitamin D Connected to Obesity and Diabetes?
Obesity is a risk factor for low vitamin D levels: the higher your weight, the more vitamin D your body needs. Studies have also shown vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of becoming obese later in life. Researchers are considering whether vitamin D can help regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, which helps regulate sugar in the blood. Studies have found people with vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, but the link is not conclusive.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Vitamin D deficiency treatment for older women involves taking up to 800 international units of vitamin D a day. The U.S. recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 600 per day for people between 1-70 years old. Infants under 1 year need 400 IU, while adults 71 and older require 800 IU.
The easiest way to get vitamin D is by exposing your skin to the UVB rays in direct sunlight. The more you expose your skin, the more vitamin D your body produces. Fair-skinned individuals who start to turn pink in 30 minutes of sun exposure only need 15 minutes of sun exposure to produce enough vitamin D for the day. Darker-skinned individuals will need to spend more time (approximately half the time it takes to burn) in the sun to produce enough vitamin D.
Most foods that contain vitamin D don’t have sufficient amounts. For example, three ounces of salmon has about 800 IU, one cup of fortified milk has 120 IUs, and an egg yolk has 40 IU. Food alone is unlikely to give you the amount of vitamin D your body needs. If you don’t get enough sun exposure regularly, your doctor may recommend you take vitamin D supplements.
Can I Get Too Much Vitamin D?
Excess vitamin D is usually caused by taking too many vitamin D supplements. It is not possible to get too much vitamin D from sun exposure. Your body regulates the amount it produces. More than 4,000 IU can cause heart arrhythmias, anorexia, excessive urine, and kidney stones.