Four reasons why seniors need vitamin D
We need vitamin D throughout our lives; as babies and children, we need vitamin D to develop strong bones, as older individuals, we need vitamin D to maintain bone health and prevent certain bone diseases. Maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D can be a challenge for seniors. Here are four reasons that explain why an older person is often prone to low levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream:
- As we get older, our skin does not produce the same amount of vitamin D that it used to, which makes the elderly prone to being either vitamin D insufficient or deficient.[1,2,3] This happens because of various components of the skin change over the years; the skin’s ability to function as a barrier, the quantity and quality of lipids in the skin, and the blood flow to the skin.
- An elderly person’s kidneys may become less able to convert vitamin D to its active form compared to a younger person.
- Although vitamin D is not found naturally in many commonly consumed foods, poor nutrition can limit access to vitamin D from one’s diet. The best food sources of vitamin D include certain kinds of fish, egg yolks, and vitamin D fortified milk.
- Lifestyle changes later in life which may limit one’s exposure to sunlight can reduce the potential to naturally produce vitamin D. This can be caused by clothing, being housebound or limited outdoor activity since older individuals tend to spend more time indoors.
All of these changes cause the ageing population to be at risk of having lower than normal levels of vitamin D, especially during the winter seasons, when outdoor time is limited or when living in colder regions. This group of adults also has the added concern of severe consequences of falls, osteoporosis and fractures.
We are not able to provide you with a recommendation for how much vitamin D one should take on a daily basis. It is always best for you to speak with a healthcare professional about your personal situation. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of the daily vitamin D supplementation guidelines by various medical organizations: The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine)6 and Health Canada7 recommended those ages 51-70 take 600 IU of vitamin D daily and those over the age of 70 take 800 IU per day.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation8 recommends those under the age of 50 take 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily and those 50 or older take 800-1000 IU per day. Osteoporosis Canada9 recommends healthy adults take 800-1000 IU of vitamin D daily. Those over 50 and those at high risk (with osteoporosis, multiple fractures, or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption) are recommended to take 800-2000 IU of vitamin D daily.
 Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency.N Engl J Med. 2007; 357:266-81.
 Holick, M.F. (1999) Vitamin D: photobiology, metabolism, mechanism of action and clinical application. In: M.J. Favus ed. Primer on the Metabolic Bone Diseases and Mineral Metabolism, 4th edn. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, 9298.
 Z Hautkr.1989 Nov 15;64(11):1015-8. [Geriatric dermatopharmacology].
 Public Health Nutr.2001 Apr;4(2B):547-59. Calcium and vitamin D nutrition and bone disease of the elderly. Gennari C.
 Lips, P. (2001) Vitamin D deficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism in the elderly: consequences for bone loss and fractures and therapeutic implications. Endocrine Reviews, 22, 477501.
 The Institute of Medicine, DRIs for Calcium and Vitamin D. November 30 2010.
 Health Canada. Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes. March 22, 2012. https://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php#a9
 National Osteoporosis Foundation, Calcium and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know. https://nof.org/calcium#howmuchvitamind
 Osteoporosis Canada, Vitamin D: An Important Nutrient That Protects You Against Falls and Fractures. https://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/nutrition/vitamin-d/