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How vitamin D affects your bone health

How vitamin D affects your bone health

Vitamin D is essential for the healthy growth and development of teeth and bones. Aptly called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is primarily sourced from the sun’s rays. Once exposed to the sun’s rays, the body prepares the vitamin. This in turn, allows the absorption of calcium and phosphorus (obtained from the food) into bones and teeth.

Calcium builds strong bones in the young and keeps them healthy as you age. Calcium-fortified bones are strong and less likely to weaken and fracture. The vitamin also helps muscles function better, aiding in balance and reducing the chance of falling. Thus, it plays a dual role in protecting against fractures.

The body requires 400 – 1000 IU of vitamin D each day. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure, three times per week, is sufficient to meet the body's requirements for most people at most latitudes. However, places of high latitude that do not get enough sunshine will not have sufficient vitamin D production in the body. Apart from this, current lifestyles (working indoors, the computer and TV taking over outdoor sports, and the extensive use of sunscreen) are losing out on the required levels of vitamin D. Without this vitamin, calcium cannot be taken up by the body, no matter how much dietary calcium you consume. Although certain foods such as fatty fish, fish liver oils and fortified cereals also provide the vitamin, it accounts for only 10-20% of total vitamin D when compared to the sun’s 80-90%.

Vitamin D is an important component of musculoskeletal health. Low levels or deficiencies can cause rickets in children, which is characterized by stooped posture, bone weakness and skeletal deformities such as bowed legs and osteomalacia (softening of bones). Osteomalacia in adults can make the bones fragile and susceptible to breaks.

It is ideal to get a few hours of exposure to the sun’s rays every day, especially in children because Vitamin D affects the development of bones. However, for those living in high latitudes vitamin D supplements are prescribed to be taken on a regular basis to enjoy good musculoskeletal health.

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