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Vitamin D

Broken Bones Blamed on Osteoporosis When Vitamin D Deficiency Is the Culprit

Friday, April 25, 2008 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: vitamin D, medical myths, health news

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(NewsTarget) You are female, over 50, post-menopausal and you keep breaking bones. In fact, you need a hip or knee replacement. The diagnosis? Most likely, your problem will be blamed on osteoporosis.

But the real reason you have brittle bones could be a vitamin D deficiency.

In a recent review of women with osteoporosis hospitalized for hip fractures, 50 percent were found to have signs of vitamin D deficiency, according to Dr. Kenneth Mathis, chairman of orthopedic surgery at the Methodist Center for Orthopedic Surgery in Houston, Texas.

It isn't only older women who are suffering due to the deficiency. "I am seeing many active, young women and men who have dangerously low vitamin D levels," said Dr. Mathis.

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by abnormally porous bone that is fragile and tends to be compressible like a sponge, rather than strong and dense like a brick. In the U.S., more than 10 million people have osteoporosis and an additional 34 million more have low bone density.
The bone disorder is a serious health problem in the U.S. In fact, 50 % of white women will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis in her lifetime and 20 % of those who experience a hip fracture will die within a year of the fracture.

A long-term deficiency of vitamin D contributes to osteoporosis because it reduces calcium absorption. The vitamin regulates the amount of calcium that remains in the blood and how much moves into bones and teeth. In addition, vitamin D has also has been found to reduce the risk of breast, colon and ovarian cancer.

"I believe if these people begin taking the daily recommended amount of vitamin D when they are younger, and get their levels tested regularly, that they might be able to prevent osteoporosis and certain cancers when they get older," Dr. Mathis stated.

Sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, cod liver oil, certain fish (sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel), yogurt and sunlight. Unfortunately, people who wear a sunscreen with a SPF of 8 or more may have a difficult time converting sunlight into vitamin D.

According to Dr. Mathis, most adults over age 50 should take a daily supplement of vitamin D, if they don't think they are getting the daily recommended amount (adults under age 50, including pregnant women, need 200 IU of vitamin D daily, people over age 50 need 400 IU daily and those over 70 need 600 IU per day).

However, taking too much vitamin D is not a healthy idea. Dr. Mathis noted the correct amount is important because vitamin D is stored in the liver and in fatty tissues. The vitamin is not water soluble like B vitamins or vitamin C so it cannot leave the body as easily if taken in excess. Vitamin D in very high dosages can build up too much calcium in the blood, leading to kidney stones and/or kidney failure.

One of Dr. Mathis' patients, sixty-year-old Darlene Yates, was found to have a vitamin D deficiency and she has begun a strict vitamin D regimen to build up her levels following several episodes of broken bones.

She reports her energy has improved and she feels better in general after the treatment.
"I'm hoping that I can get to where I don't break any more bones and have to have any more surgeries," Yates said. "If I would have known about the link between vitamin D and bone weakness 40 years ago, you can bet I would have done something about it."

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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