Vitamin D is necessary for our bodies to absorb calcium. Together these two nutrients help to maintain proper bone structure and prevent osteoporosis.
Most foods aren’t naturally rich in Vitamin D, although it is found in small amounts in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon. Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D including some dairy products, cereals and orange juice to help get the recommended daily allowance of 600 IU for people up to 70 years old and 800 IU for those 71 and older.
Nearly 80-90% of the Vitamin D our body gets is obtained through exposure to sunlight. In this process, ultraviolet (UVB) radiation from the sun penetrates uncovered skin and converts a compound in the skin into what eventually becomes Vitamin D. It is stored in body fat and released when sunlight is gone.
The challenging part of getting Vitamin D through sun exposure is that in the northern U.S. and Canada, the amount of UVB from sunlight is greatly reduced in winter months. Even in sunnier climates, if people stay inside or use sunscreen, they may not get enough of the sunlight they need, so Vitamin D deficiency is more common than might be expected.
Older people are also at risk for Vitamin D deficiency because they tend to spend less time in the sun, have fewer skin receptors to convert sunlight to Vitamin D, may not get adequate amounts in their diets or may have trouble absorbing and converting it from their food intake. Vitamin D supplements are often used to increase the amount of this important nutrient to help keep bones strong and healthy. Talk with your physician to determine what’s right for you.