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Do Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency Include Osteoporosis?

Is osteoporosis one of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency? Osteoporosis Canada reports that vitamin D3 can increase calcium absorption by as much as 30 to 80 percent... and that most Canadians are deficient during the winter.

To view comments from visitors about vitamin D dosage see our vitamin D supplements page.

Vitamin D is one of the most important elements of a bone building program because it increases the body's ability to absorb calcium by 30-80%.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are subtle and may go unnoticed until we experience a fracture or broken bone.

Research shows that as many as 70% of Americans and Canadians may be vitamin D deficient for at least part of the year.

As we age, our skin gradually loses its youthful cholesterol and the ability to synthesize vitamin D.

Although it has not been widely studied, some reports indicate that by the age of 50, vitamin D production has fallen to approximately 50% of its original rate. By the age of 65 production will have fallen to just 25% of its original capability.

What About The Sunshine?

Many people believe that 15 minutes in the sun will provide all the vitamin D they need to be healthy. But this simple guideline can be misleading and falsely reassuring. Those who may need more than 15 minutes in the sun to get sufficient vitamin D include:

  • Men and women over 50 whose thinning skin is less able to produce vitamin D and whose kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D into its active form
  • People who cover up or wear sunscreen when they are outside
  • Dark skinned people who need much more sunlight to generate sufficient vitamin D
  • People who have a medical condition that affects the intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D (conditions such as Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease)
  • Those who are obese, as fat cells can extract vitamin D from the blood and prevent it from being absorbed by the bones

The 15-minute rule is also not effective at higher latitudes. In latitudes above 42 degrees north (Boston, Rome and Beijing) there is insufficient radiation available for vitamin D synthesis from November to early March.

Ten degrees farther north, this "vitamin D winter" extends to almost half of the year. Unfortunately there are few symptoms of vitamin D deficiency to warn us to increase our supplements.

Darlene Varaleau says, "I was taking 2,000 IU daily and by January my blood test showed that I was deficient. Now I take 5,000 IU daily in the winter."

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?

Health professionals do not yet agree on how much vitamin D is needed to optimize bone health. Osteoporosis Canada recommends that women over fifty take 1,000-2,000 IU and that up to 4,000 IU is safe.

The U.S. National Osteoporosis Foundation currently recommends that adults over 50 get 800-1,000 IU a day while acknowledging that some people may need more.

The Vitamin D Council recommends that people take an average of 5,000 IU a day if they have some sun exposure and possibly more if they have little or no sun exposure.

Supplements are the most convenient way to get the recommended vitamin D dosage, as there are few foods high in vitamin D that will provide the recommended levels on a consistent basis.

While there is no agreement on the optimal vitamin D dosage, there is general agreement on the value of an annual vitamin D blood test.

A blood test allows us to test the adequacy of our supplement during the winter and to adjust the dosage rather than waiting for vitamin D deficiency symptoms that will likely arrive too late.

The 25 (OH) D blood test is now a standard part of many annual check-ups but people are encouraged to request the test if it is not yet offered.

There is growing recognition of the value of vitamin D not only for healthy bones but also for strengthening the immune system and possibly preventing some cancers as well as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

It is unwise to wait for the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency to appear before taking steps to ensure that we have enough of this valuable vitamin.