When asking how does vitamin D affect bone development and repair, having enough vitamin D in the body is crucial, especially after a surgery
In a recent study, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with reduced mobility after hip fracture surgery: a prospective study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that “Vitamin D deficiency (<12 ng/mL) is associated with reduced ambulation after hip fracture surgery.” So how does vitamin D affect bone development and repair in seniors? Having enough vitamin D in the body can help increase mobility after the same type of surgery.
So, what is vitamin D, how does it help the body, and how does it enable the body to heal after fractures like the one mentioned above?
Theresa DeLorenzo, DCN, RD, the program director for the Nutrition and Human Performance Program at Logan University as well as owner of Nutrition for Optimal Performance, a private practice focusing on sports nutrition, took time to answer these questions and more. What follows is an edited version of our interview.
For our readers, explain what vitamin D does in the body. How does vitamin D affect bone development and repair in seniors?
Vitamin D is a prohormone that helps our immune system function properly and keeps our body’s inflammation at bay. It is obtained from the sun, milk, shiitake mushrooms, and fortified dairy products. Some milk alternatives are fortified with vitamin D and some are not.
Vitamin D deficiency is quite prevalent due to the fact that is not commonly found in our food supply, and in the northern parts of the country, synthesis is impaired during the winter months. Other factors that increase the incidence of vitamin D deficiency include being obese, as the vitamin becomes sequestered into fat cells, therefore making it unavailable; heavy use of sunscreen; having dark skin; and being over the age of 70.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with every disease that we know of including, but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and many more. In addition, utilization of vitamin D is a two-step process involving the liver and the kidneys. Vitamin D is stored in the liver, and when it is needed for use by the body, it travels to the kidneys to be converted to the active form. If there is injury or disease in either of these organs, it can impact a person’s ability to utilize vitamin D.
How does vitamin D affect bone development and repair in seniors, and can not having enough impede mobility?
In addition to the functions described before, vitamin D also assists with the absorption of calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. These are essential minerals used in the formation and health of our bones.
Without sufficient levels of vitamin D, bone fractures — including hip fractures — are more common. Improving vitamin D status improves one’s ability to handle a fall without significant injury. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so intake of adequate fat is essential for proper absorption.
If patients have low vitamin D levels, what should they do to increase it?
Aim for 20-30 minutes outside in the sun per day, and add milk, shiitake mushrooms, and fortified dairy products into your diet. While it is preferable to obtain nutrients from food, vitamin D is not widespread in our food supply as previously mentioned, so supplementation may be necessary as deficiency of this important nutrient can cause many health complications in individuals.
The supplementation amount depends on the individual’s serum level; providers should check patients’ levels once a year and base the dosage on that number.
Infants should receive 400 IUs of vitamin D supplementation when they are born, as their levels reflect mom’s levels, which are often suboptimal. Breast milk has very little vitamin D which would further their deletion.
If seniors fall and break a hip or injure themselves in other ways, how can vitamin D help them to mend?
After a fall resulting in a hip fracture, adequate vitamin D aids with the absorption of the minerals needed to repair the bone.
A varied diet is the best way to ensure that you are getting in proper amounts of vitamins and minerals. When asking how does vitamin D affect bone development and repair, vitamin D is one exception that often needs to be supplemented due to its importance and the number of disease processes that can result in inadequate stores.