Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin
In contrast to all other vitamins that humans ingest through food, our body can produce vitamin D itself. It is produced in our skin when we expose it – well dosed – to the sun. The influence of sunlight is therefore decisive. However, because hardly anybody nowadays regularly spends time outdoors, more and more people are suffering from a deficiency. In Germany, around 80% of the population have too low a vitamin level in the blood and do not benefit from the natural source of health.
In the body, this vitamin plays a vital role in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels and ensures that calcium from food can be easily absorbed and incorporated into the bones.
The muscles also benefit: muscle performance is supported, the ability to coordinate is improved, and the speed required for reflexes is increased. If it is important to avoid falls and thus reduce the risk of breakage, then it makes sense to take this micronutrient separately from food. And essential for osteoporosis.
Calciol, Cholecalciferol, Calciferol or D3?
Why do people say calciol, cholecalciferol, calciferol or D3? Many names mean (almost) the same thing: Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, but a hormone or prohormone and can be synthesized in large quantities in the skin of our body with sufficient sunlight. For the sake of simplicity, however, we will stick to the term vitamin here, even as it has become so established. Vitamin D3 is the more exact name, Calciol, Cholecalciferol or Calciferol the scientific name. Since there are different forms of this prohormone, a numbering was introduced, here thus the level 3, therefore the name D3. Because we don’t want to make it too complicated, we stick to the simple name vitamin D.
Vitamin D and Osteoporosis Vitamin D: the sunshine vitamin
In contrast to all other vitamins that humans ingest through food, our body can produce vitamin D itself. It is produced in our skin when we take it – wohldoVitamin D: Important for the bones and more… Put simply, deficiency has serious consequences:
Vitamin D has established itself in recent years as a scientifically proven double talent in the prevention of fractures and falls in older people, it has an effect on calcium metabolism and thus strengthens the bones, it has a direct effect on the muscles and thus reduces the risk of falls. Furthermore, various age-associated chronic diseases such as cardiovascular problems and heart attacks seem to be positively influenced, according to Prof. Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari. Summary results of overview studies show that elderly people who take 700 to 1000 IU daily walk more safely, fall less frequently and suffer fewer fractures.
For a long time, medical interest was mainly focused on the regulation of bone metabolism, i.e. the absorption of the mineral calcium from the food components in the intestine and its storage in the bones. Even though this is still valid, medicine has learned an essential aspect:
Vitamin D influences the metabolism of cells
Vitamin D is active in almost all cells of our body and influences cell metabolism. Vitamin D is vital for the formation and maintenance of bones throughout life and performs several key functions that must be taken into account in osteoporosis:
- supports calcium absorption
- regulates the parathormone level
- supports bone remodeling (renewal and mineralization)
- supports calcium absorption
- regulates the parathormone level
Vitamin D source sunlight
The most important source is the sunlight on our skin. But the sun has to shine and we have to let it get to our skin. Then, and only then, can our skin produce vitamin D. But:
Nowhere in Europe does one get a sufficient amount of UVB radiation from November to February, the important part of sunlight for vitamin D formation. During these months and regardless of age, the sun’s rays allow only minimal production in the skin.
Vitamin production in the skin decreases with age. The skin of an elderly person can only produce about 25 percent of the amount produced by an adolescent.
Seniors tend to avoid direct sunlight.
The use of sunscreens reduces production, regardless of age.
Most people are not sufficiently aware of the health value of the sun’s rays. This is also the case when dermatologists and the media constantly point out the associated dangers (e.g. skin cancer). Sunlight in well-measured quantities is sensible and indispensable, as it keeps the vitamin level and thus our vitality at a high level. Ideal would be daily 20-30 minutes sun on face, arms and legs.
What does vitamin D have? Vitamin D in food
Natural food sources are limited. Larger amounts are only found in fatty fish – such as salmon, eel, mackerel or herring. The origin of the fish is also decisive – for example, farmed salmon provides considerably less vitamin D than wild salmon.
And as far as the required quantity is concerned: we would have to eat a large portion (approx. 400 g) of fatty fish every day in order to absorb the recommended vitamin dose. Alternatively, several kilograms of pork, 16 to 20 eggs or 20 litres of whole milk could be eaten. So, a good vitamin D level is practically impossible to achieve with food.
The occurrence in food is altogether very low, in most vegetable food as good as not present.
Vitamin D recommendation
Since most people in Central Europe do not have the possibility of sufficient sun exposure and since the overall occurrence in food is very low, the recommendations are quite clear: intake by means of dietary supplementation.
The IOF (International Osteoporosis Foundation), in its 2010 opinion on optimal fall and fracture reduction, recommends 800-1,000 units for adults aged 60 and over, given the wide spread of vitamin deficiency. The DVO Osteoporosis Guideline also recommends taking 800 to 1000 IU per day.
But what should not go unmentioned: Many experts recommend higher dosages because they consider vitamin D to be very important.
Vitamin D and osteoporosis
Why is Cholecalciferol / D3 used to treat osteoporosis? It is an indispensable component of basic osteoporosis therapy. An adjuvant (concomitant) administration is also recommended for treatment with specific osteoporosis therapeutics.
Study data suggest that adequate care can reduce the risk of fractures by up to 20% on average and by up to 30% on the hip, wrist, forearm and vertebrae. However, according to the results of a survey, less than one in five osteoporotic patients living in Europe currently received cholecalciferol / D3 supplementation.
For prevention – how high should one dose? According to current recommendations, at least 400 to 1000 IU should be taken daily. A supplement with Cholecalciferol / D3 is also a fixed component of any osteoporosis therapy.