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4 Benefits of Vitamin D for Seniors

Kara Lewis
By Kara LewisSeptember 23, 2020
Elderly woman in a field with her granddaughter picking daisies.

Vitamin D is a crucial component of healthy aging. However, many older adults don’t get enough of it, leading to symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, including bone softening, nausea, cognitive difficulties, and frailty. To avoid these problems, older adults should aim for the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors: 600 IU for those under 71 and 800 IU for those 71 and older. 

Learn about the benefits of vitamin D for seniors, common sources, and how the vitamin can protect aging adults’ mood, bone health, and overall long-term wellness.

Vitamin D boosts senior happiness and mental health

Vitamin D improves senior mental health, combating prevalent issues like elderly depression. A 2017 study of more than 5,600 older adults found a link between lower levels of vitamin D and depressive symptoms, such as loneliness, lack of enjoyment, and restless sleep.

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Study participants with the least amount of vitamin D reported more pronounced mental health concerns. As a result of this emerging science, researchers continue to investigate a potential vitamin D antidepressant.

Vitamin D and bone health in the elderly

Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak, affects 16% of all seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The condition carries serious health risks, potentially leading to falls and other home safety hazards. The clear connection between vitamin D and bone health in the elderly helps defend against bone softening.

For added effectiveness, older adults should pair the recommended vitamin D dose for seniors with calcium. A 2019 American Medical Association analysis of 49,000 found seniors who combined adequate vitamin D levels and sufficient calcium intake reduced their risk of hip fractures by 16%.

Vitamin D helps prevent cancers and infections

Seniors who want to be proactive about their health should turn to vitamin D. Scientists cite the important nutrient as a preventive treatment for everything from colon cancer to the flu.

Due to its ability to manage immune cells, a healthy vitamin D status puts seniors at decreased risk for colon cancer and blood cancers, specifically. Recent research from the University of Eastern Finland also suggests reduced mortality among some cancer patients treated with vitamin D.

In addition to fending off life-threatening and chronic diseases, vitamin D can help boost seniors’ immune system to defeat more everyday illnesses, like colds, the flu, and other respiratory conditions. A global study incorporating 25 clinical trials reported that vitamin D promotes “natural antibiotic-like substances” in the lungs.

Protect oral health with vitamin D

Often, aging makes dental care more difficult to manage. While getting older brings increased likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay, vitamin D provides a strong defense. In a study of 67 dental patients, those with higher vitamin D levels exhibited a lower likelihood of contracting oral health diseases, the most prominent cause of senior tooth decay and loss. This recent research has been reaffirmed by many other studies, all of which note the link between vitamin D and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Without vitamin D, the mouth would experience calcium deficiency, putting seniors at increased risk for gum disease.

How to get the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors

There are several ways to attain vitamin D benefits:

  • Sunshine is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D. Take an afternoon walk, or invest in a UV lamp for colder months.
  • One tablespoon of cod liver oil supplements 170% of daily vitamin D.
  • Four or five sliced, white mushrooms make up half of the needed vitamin D intake.
  • Three ounces of cooked salmon account for more than 80% of necessary vitamin D.
  • cup of milk, which is fortified with vitamin D, contains 20% of the daily recommended vitamin D value.

Beyond these natural sources, a doctor or dietitian may recommend a vitamin D supplement, after ruling out medication interactions or other health risks.


Sources:

Madi M, et al. “The association between vitamin D level and periodontal disease in Saudi population, a preliminary study.” 
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1013905220307495

Yao P, Bennett D, Mafham M, et. al. “Vitamin D and calcium for the prevention of fracture.” 
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2757873.

Kweder H, Eidi H. “Vitamin D deficiency in elderly: Risk factors and drugs impact on vitamin D status.” 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6178567/#:~:text=Elderly%20men%20are%20more%20likely,%25%20and%2026%25%2C%20respectively.

Kara Lewis
Author
Kara Lewis

Kara Lewis is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She’s worked in writing, editing, and creative strategy for several years, most recently at Andrews McMeel Universal, Hallmark, and Gannett Media. Her writing has appeared in Bustle, Alma, and The Kansas City Star, among other outlets. She has won awards for digitally conscious journalism, investigative reporting, magazine writing, and poetry.

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