Vitamin D plays an important role in keeping our bones healthy, ensuring our muscles work properly, and carrying messages throughout our body via the nervous system. As we grow older, our need for vitamin D increases. For people ages 1-70, the recommended daily amount (RDA) is 600 IU. For those 71 years and older, the RDA is 800 IU. As a reference, one cup of milk fortified with vitamin D contains 100 IU on average.
Sources of Vitamin D
Sun exposure is one source of vitamin D. When the UV rays from the sun hit our skin, it triggers a reaction that makes vitamin D. The recommended amount of sunlight is approximately 10-15 minutes per day (without sunscreen) multiple times throughout the week.
Food sources of vitamin D include fortified cereals, orange juice and milk, fatty fish, egg yolks and beef liver. If an adequate amount cannot be achieved through sun exposure or diet, supplements are also widely available.
Through a combination of these three sources, it is possible to reach the recommended amounts. However, we become less efficient at converting vitamin D through sun exposure as we age; therefore, it is necessary to ensure that those with higher vitamin D needs receive adequate amounts through food and supplementation.
Benefits of Vitamin D Intake for the Elderly
Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption in the body, and together they play an important role in bone health. It is important that older adults consume enough vitamin D to protect themselves against bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Studies have shown that older adults consuming enough vitamin D and calcium are less likely to experience fractures, bone pain and muscle weakness as they age. There have also been studies that indicate there is a decreased risk for cancers and heart disease in those who have adequate vitamin D intakes.