Calcium / Vitamin D, D3 Supplements - Deficiency, Importance, Source

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Importance of Vitamin D for Healthy Bones Emphasized

14 Apr 2005

"Got milk?"

Most women in the United States understood the message of the widespread and successful advertising campaign imploring them to increase calcium in their diets.  But the message should have posed an additional question:  "Got vitamin D, too?" says Jennifer Wider, MD, of the Society for Women's Health Research.

Women over the age of 50 do not fully understand the role vitamin D3 plays in keeping their bones healthy, according to a national survey conducted by the Society for Women's Health Research, a nonprofit advocacy organization in Washington, DC.  What's more, more than half of those surveyed hadn't even discussed vitamin D with their doctors.

"Calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity are three key elements in maintaining optimal bone health, especially for women over 50," said Jo Parrish, of the Society.  While many women are aware of the need for calcium and exercise, a majority "simply do not associate vitamin D with bone health," Parrish said.

Calcium/Vitamin D deficiency, affects more than eight million women in the United States.  As women age, the risk of deficiency increases.  During menopause, bone loss is hastened by the depletion of estrogen, placing women at high risk.

Vitamin D3 plays an important role in bone health because it helps the body absorb calcium from the diet.  "The relationship between calcium absorption and vitamin D is similar to that of a locked door and a key:  vitamin D is the key that unlocks the door and allows calcium to leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream," Parrish explained, noting that vitamin D also works in the kidneys "to help absorb calcium that would otherwise be excreted."

In October 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on bone health.  The report emphasized the importance of getting enough vitamin D3 to maintain good bone health.  But most women are unaware of how to increase the amount of vitamin D in their diets.

"Many women erroneously assume that the foods they eat contain an adequate amount of vitamin D," Parrish said. But it's "almost impossible to get the required amount of vitamin D from foods," she said.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in a limited number of foods and can also be manufactured by the body after sun exposure.  "Few foods in an otherwise healthy diet contain vitamin D," Parrish said, "with the exception of fortified milk, fortified orange juice, certain cereals, and fatty fish such as salmon and sardines."

For most people, a supplement is usually required to get the right amount in their diets.

The take home message - especially for women over the age of 50 - is to get enough vitamin D3 in their diets every day.

"Women should talk to their healthcare providers about their need for vitamin D and how best to obtain it.  Although it is not a routine test, women can ask for a test to determine their vitamin D level," Parrish said. "The surgeon general's report recommends that men and women over the age of 50 get 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, and that men and women over the age of 70 get 600 IU of vitamin D per day."

This article was prepared by Biotech Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2005, Biotech Week via

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