A study on menopausal women in Europe has scientists reveal that as high as 70% of women in this category have low Vitamin D levels. The dip in percentage is very significant and has shocked the European medical fraternity. This especially so because the percentage is seeing a steady dip without a reversing trend despite increased awareness among women in the last decade over the importance of Vitamin D and it’s bearing on bone health.
As per the experts, a good level to be aimed at by menopausal women would be over 30 ng/ml (or nanograms per millilitre). This is also corroborated by the recommendation made by the Office of Dietary Supplements on Vitamin D. They clearly state that persons are potentially at risk for inadequacy at levels ranging from 12–20 ng/mL and that all people are sufficient at levels ≥20 ng/mL. (1)
Menopausal women recording low levels of Vitamin D are likely to experience not just higher risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis but also loss of motor coordination and decreased immunity to diseases. As per Harvard School of Public Health, Low levels of Vitamin D has taken the proportion of a global epidemic and it makes a deficient person susceptible to health conditions such as colon cancer, muscle atrophy, heart diseases, multiple sclerosis, viral infections, tuberculosis and diabetes type 1 and 2. (2)
As per Faustino R. Pérez-López, researcher at the University of Zaragoza and the team of experts he worked with, “We analysed the conditions and diseases that are associated with vitamin D deficiency and we recommended the intake of supplements in postmenopausal women. Healthcare professionals should be aware that this is a common problem which affects a large part of the population in Europe, even those who live in sunny places.”
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which includes a series of hormonal compounds that have affinity to lipids/fats. These compounds regulate metabolism by affecting the digestive tract,, kidneys, liver and the parathyroid glands. Vitamin D is metabolised by the liver where it transforms into a prehormone Calcidiol. Calcidiol is then metabolised by the kidneys and is converted to an active hormone Calcitriol. Calcitriol increases the absorption of calcium through the gut and reduces the filtering out of calcium from the body through urine and thus positively affects the level of calcium in the blood. In addition Calcitriol also affects heart contraction, immune system regulation, cell proliferation, working of apoptosis and insulin synthesis. (3)
Vitamin D can be had through food sources such as oily fish, eggs and milk etc. As supplements Vitamin D comes in two varieties – as Ergocalciferol or D2 and as Colecalciferol or D3.
Production and release of Vitamin D3 is also affected by exposure to sunlight. When ultra-violet rays shine on our skin, a cholesterol-like substance gets converted to Vitamin D and absorbed into the blood.
According to Pérez-López, “The World Health Organisation or other relevant bodies belonging to the European Union should establish minimum requirements or recommendations on the fortification of foods with vitamin D.
According to these experts, vitamin D supplements improve the mineral density of the bones and neuromuscular function and reduce the risk of fracture. Pérez-López believes that “the World Health Organisation or other relevant bodies belonging to the European Union should establish minimum requirements or recommendations on the fortification of foods with vitamin D.” Though some European countries have standard recommendations for Vitamin D intake but they are not strictly followed and not uniform.
The researchers are unanimous in their opinion that post-menopausal women can have a good Vitamin D level if they are physically fit, follow an active lifestyle including doing regular exercises and moderate weight-bearing routines. It is important they say, that these women get fifteen minutes of sunshine 3-4 times a week.
Deficiency of Vitamin D is linked to development of diseases like rickets, osteomalacia, osteoporosis and the risk of bone fracture, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, infections and degenerative diseases
As per one expert from the team, post-menopausal women up to 70 years of age should take in 600 IU (international units) of Vitamin D through food/supplement. For ages beyond this they should aim at getting 800 IU daily. People at risk of low Vitamin levels are those who live close to the poles should increase their intake to up to 4,000 IU per day. There is scientific evidence that a daily dose of 4,000 IU/day is not poisonous in healthy people. (4)
- Vitamin D; Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health; January 2012;
- The Nutrition Source- Vitamin D and Health; Harvard School Of Medicine; January 2012;
- 70 Percent of Europeans Suffer from Low Vitamin D Levels, Experts Say; Science Daily News; January 2012;
- 70 percent of Europeans suffer from low vitamin D levels; FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology Via AlphaGalileo; January 2012;