Vitamin D3 Issues and Cautions

Vitamin D and Healthy Aging

Studies of vitamin D and its critical importance for seniors and healthy aging are published almost every week. However, nearly three of every four adolescent and adult Americans suffer from vitamin D insufficiency, according to Science Daily.

Vitamin D appears to be the vitamin du jour, and will likely remain so if medical research continues to support even some of the findings discussed here. Unfortunately, sufficient amounts of vitamin D are present in very few foods. Even with food additives and brief sun exposure – remember skin cancer-- we may not be getting enough of the active form of D3 we need.

Fall Prevention and Muscle Strength

We’ve always known that calcium plus vitamin D build strong bones. But vitamin D also enables muscles to repair and function properly. A recent meta-analysis reported in the British Medical Journal showed that vitamin D reduces the number of fractures in the elderly largely by preventing falls in the first place. The study indicated that intake of 700 to 1,000 IU per day cut a woman’s risk of falling by 19%.  

Furthermore, five studies evaluated by the Cochrane Review in January 2010 tested the effects of giving vitamin D to patients in nursing facilities. Results indicated residents were 28% less likely to fall when given daily doses of vitamin D.


Vitamin D may help the elderly ward off dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and stroke. Deficiency was liked in one study to 130% increased risk of dementia, 15% risk of Alzheimer’s and 100% increased risk of stroke.

Two of three studies reported in Neurology, January 13, 2010 also found that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to cognitive impairment in older women. Men and women with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to have dementia, strokes, and disease in the blood vessels to the brain.

Lowest Levels of D = Highest Risk for heart, lung, and colon health

Another study indicated that individuals with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were 26% more likely to die during the course of that study than those with higher amounts, indicating a role of vitamin D in coronary health through its ability to reduce inflammation.

Low levels of vitamin D correlated with poorer lung function, increased airway reactivity, and reduced response to steroid treatment in adult asthmatics, researchers of the National Jewish Health in Denver, and colleagues online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine said.

People with vitamin D deficiency also may be at high risk for colorectal cancer, a study in the January 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests. Compared to those whose vitamin D levels were lowest, all other subjects were at 37 to 46 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer. 


There are common beliefs about vitamin D that turn out to be incorrect.

1. I get enough in my milk and cereal. You most likely cannot get sufficient D from fortified dairy products, cereals, or other foods with vitamin D added. For example you’d need to drink eight glasses of milk daily to come close.

2. I’m in the sun a lot. At our latitude, you cannot get sufficient vitamin D from the sun in the winter. Even in the summer, considering the dangers of melanoma and the use of sunscreen, you may be running a risk here. In addition, after the age of 50 vitamin D is not effectively metabolized by the skin.

3. I eat a lot of salmon. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils are among the best sources of vitamin D. However, other than 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil daily, they provide only a fraction of the amount recommended. You’d have to eat 3 oz. of salmon every day.

How much do you need ? Ask Your Doctor !

The first step is to determine your personal serum level of vitamin D. Most HMOs now conduct a vitamin D serum test automatically when a blood test is ordered. The current accepted range is 30 to 60 nanograms per milliliter, with levels at the higher end of the range considered to be most protective, particularly for seniors. Those individuals with levels below 10 are about twice as likely to have cognitive impairment, according to one study.

Next, note the total amount of vitamin D3 in each of the vitamins, calcium tablets, cereals, processed foods and beverages you consume. Armed with your current average daily D3 intake, you and your medical professional can consider supplements to determine how much added vitamin D3 you may need. Remember, you will be looking at the active form, vitamin D3, a supplement which is fairly inexpensive.

Historically, recommendations were to take 400-600 IU of vitamin D3 daily. These levels are currently being re-evaluated. Some physicians with major medical institutions now advise that 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily for the elderly might be more appropriate. Higher therapeutic doses may be indicated for a brief time if the serum level is low. Toxic levels of vitamin D and some drug interactions are possible, so please do not begin to take any supplements without consulting your medical provider.

Automotive Mobility Assistance

Several articles have noted that automobiles built for the Japanese market now can be obtained with “swivel” seats, wheelchair or scooter hoists or ramps, pedal extensions and other assistive technologies. Toyota is currently offering modifications on some of its vehicles. Many of us, however, know people for whom such devices would greatly improve the quality of life.

Toyota and Honda both now have “mobility assistance” programs offering reimbursements of up to $1,000 for expenses incurred for the “after market” purchase or installation of a variety of assistive or adaptive devices for their vehicles. Program criteria vary, and other manufacturers may also offer such assistance. Check to see if you or your loved ones may qualify for reimbursement.

We identified these two sites with information (there may be others, please let us know).

visit: Toyota or Honda.


Issues On Aging