Is vitamin D supplementation important for healthy bones?

Vitamin D supplementation may be important for healthy bones in some people. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and these nutrients work together to help you build and maintain strong bones. You can get vitamin D by taking supplements, by eating foods that contain it (such as fatty fish, eggs or fortified milk or breakfast cereal) or by exposing your skin to sunlight. If you do not get enough sun exposure, if you have a condition that makes it hard for your body to absorb or use vitamin D normally, or if you are at high risk for a bone disease such as osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend that you take vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D helps the body maintain healthy blood levels of calcium by allowing the bones to absorb calcium more efficiently, and thus it’s linked to stronger bones (as well as to stronger muscles). A vitamin D deficiency is associated with the increased risk of fractures, particularly hip fractures, in the elderly. And, while there are no conclusive studies pointing to vitamin D deficiency as a direct cause of osteoporosis, it’s a well-documented cause of osteomalacia, or soft bones, which also can lead to fractures.

Top vitamin D sources include sunshine, canned sardines, canned pink salmon, fortified orange juice and oysters.

Elizabeth Casparro, MPH,RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body and has 3 main functions: moderates absorption of calcium and phosphorus (key bone minerals), regulates bone composition of calcium and phosphorus and regulates reabsorption of these minerals from the kidneys. Vitamin D can be obtained either from sun exposure (30 minutes per day) or foods. Food sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, fatty fish, fortified milk and more.
Yes. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium by “unlocking” it from the small intestine and helping to regulate its absorption. Good sources include fortified milk, margarine, egg yolk, and tuna fish; it’s also made in your skin when exposed to sunlight.
Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the small intestine, help reduce calcium loss via the kidneys and helps maintain calcium and phosphorus levels for adequate bone formation. An important thing to keep in mind is that in addition to calcium and vitamin D, vitamin k2 is critical for bone calcification, and, even more importantly helps keep excess calcium out of the arteries and helps contribute to the calcification of bone tissue via the activation of a protein called osteocalcin. So not only is vitamin D important for bone health, but vitamin K2 is also important for bone health as well as helping to prevent excess calcium from building up in the arteries; a major risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Absolutely. Everyone should get adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D throughout their lifetime. Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium and can reduce the risk for fractures. The National Academy of Sciences recently (2010) raised the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D due to low intakes. Since very few foods are rich in Vitamin D, it’s difficult to consume adequate amounts from food alone. The RDA is 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for those over 70. Many experts believe these recommended amounts are lower than optimal and advise people to take a supplement rather than rely on sun exposure to produce the vitamin from cholesterol in the body. Exposure to UV rays is harmful to the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.