Information for elderly : Vitamin D, the facts!

February, 2013

Earlier in the week we looked at osteoporosis and how, when providing care for elderly people, you can help with their recovery and mitigate future issues. One of the most common reason for contracting osteoporosis is due to a lack of vitamin D.


Vitamin D is needed for good health; the main source of which is produced by our bodies, in the skin, by the action of sunlight. There are few foods that contain vitamin D but the best dietary source of vitamin D is oily fish and cod liver oil. During the summer in the UK it is thought 20-30 minutes of sunlight, 2-3 times a week is sufficient to produce enough vitamin D.


For six months of the year (October to April), much of western Europe (including 90% of the UK) lies too far north to have enough UVB rays in sunlight necessary to make vitamin D in the skin. So, many people in the UK are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D unless they get it in their diet.


Why do we need it? A main action of vitamin D is to help calcium and phosphorus in our diet to be absorbed from the gut. Calcium and phosphorus are needed to keep bones healthy and strong. So if you are providing long term care for elderly relatives vitamin D is important in reducing the risk of illnesses like osteoporosis and rickets. There is also some evidence that vitamin D may also help to prevent other diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.


Elderly people have thinner skin than younger people and so are unable to produce as much vitamin D. This leaves older people more at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can also occur in people taking certain medicines including: carbamazepine, phenytoin, primidone, barbiturates and some anti-HIV medicines.

The treatment? Simple; take vitamin D supplements. If you are providing elderly care help and think your relative is suffering from vitamin D deficiency make an appointment with your local GP to discuss possible options.

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