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Vitamin D and the Older American

vitamin d

Low vitamin D status is common among many older Americans and affected by many mechanisms within the body.  Older Americans may have decreased intake of dietary vitamin D, or reduced sun exposure than in previous years. Even if exposed to ultraviolent light synthesis within the skin may be less efficient. In addition, aged intestines and kidneys may have a decreased ability to absorb and activate vitamin D.

So what does vitamin D for us?

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Two nutrients necessary for bone, teeth and muscle health. Vitamin D also plays a role in immunity and protects us from bacteria and viruses. There have been some news reports suggesting vitamin D may even ward off Covid 19, though there is insufficient evidence to support that claim at this time.

Which foods provide vitamin D?

Few foods provide vitamin D, so we need to incorporate them on a regular basis. Sources include:  oily fish (ex. salmon, mackerel, sardines), red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods (ex. spreads and fortified cereals).

How much vitamin D do I need?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 800 IU vitamin D (20 mcg vitamin D) daily for most males and females 71 years and older.

Does this mean I need to take a supplement?

Some people are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency than others:  those who do not spend a lot of time outdoors, those who live in an institution (like a skilled nursing home), those who wear protective clothing while in the sun, and those with darker skin tones. If you’re concerned about your vitamin D level, check with your primary care provider before starting a new dietary supplement. They can order blood work to assess your vitamin D status. Unnecessarily taking a vitamin D supplement and consuming too much may cause calcium build-up, which can also weaken bones and cause damage to the heart and kidneys.


“Physical Changes with Age.” Eat Right- Nutrition Care Manual, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.

NHS. “Vitamin D.” Nhs.Uk, Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.