Vitamin D may not help older women

 
By Doug Bennett • Published: November 26th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Vitamin D supplements may not help older women after all.

Findings from a clinical trial show that the supplement doesn’t help improve bone strength or bone density, bringing some clarity to a medical question that has been murky for years. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine divided 230 postmenopausal women into three groups. One group took a low dose of vitamin D, another group took a high dose and the third group got a placebo.

After taking the supplements for a year, the high-dose group had 55 percent more vitamin D in their blood than the low-dose group. But that didn’t help calcium absorption, which increased only about 1 percent in the high-dose group, compared to a 2 percent decrease in the low dose group. It also didn’t help improve bone mineral density or reduce fall risks.

So just how much, if any, vitamin D should you take if you’re a postmenopausal woman? Researchers support a middle-of-the-road approach. Women whose vitamin D level is 20 milligrams per deciliter don’t need a supplement, they say. Lower levels of vitamin D can be boosted with 600 to 800 units a day. There’s also an easy, natural way to boost your vitamin D level: Spend some time in the sun. Just six days of casual sunlight exposure can make up for seven weeks without sunshine. The body also stores vitamin D in fat tissue when it’s sunny, then releases it when sunlight is gone. Another way to boost your levels of vitamin D is to make it part of mealtime. Milk and many types of fish are high in this much-needed nutrient.

To find out your vitamin D level, ask your doctor whether a test is necessary.