Vitamin D Deficiency Makes Bones Age Faster, Research Finds

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Vitamin D is an all-purpose nutrient that helps minimize the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, the flu, and even depression and anxiety. But perhaps the most important benefit of vitamin D is its contribution towards bone building and strengthening. So, it comes as no surprise that a lack of the vitamin can have negative repercussions on skeletal strength and growth.

A 2013 study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine defines the link between vitamin D and bone aging. It discovered that vitamin D deficiency makes bones age faster by changing bone structure, hence amplifying the risk of fractures.

The Research:

Led by German researcher Bjorn Busse at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, USA, the study proved that the natural bone-aging process is accelerated when there is insufficient vitamin D in the body.

The study analyzed bone samples from 30 subjects between 57-60; all generally healthy, but deficient in vitamin D. Synchrotron Radiation-Based Micro Computed Tomography was utilized to attain accurate results at the nano- and micrometer level.

The Results:

The scan showed that a chronic vitamin D deficiency increased the start and spread of bone fractures significantly by 31%.  The researchers also discovered that while the surface of the bone had less mineralization (the process of adding minerals to the bone), the lower layers were more heavily mineralized, i.e. less dense, and displayed the characteristics of old, brittle bones.

Busse and his colleagues explained this reduction in bone density and quality (strength) through the alteration of bone-building osteoblasts and osteoclasts as a result of reduced vitamin D content.

Osteoclasts, specifically, were prevented from entering deeper into the bone, resulting in continued aging and mineralization of the deeper bone layers, even as the overall bone mineral content declined.

Why It’s Important:

Due to a vitamin D deficiency, the body starts removing calcium from bones to normalize blood calcium levels, resulting in decelerated mineralization, and reduced bone density and quality.

This increased bone softening and brittleness results in the premature onset of rickets in children, and osteoporosis in adults; both being the prime cause of most major and minor bone fractures worldwide.

The observations of this study can help provide more insight into more effective measures of fracture treatment and prevention in patients with a vitamin D deficiency. Moreover, early detection and adequate supplementation can possibly reverse the process, and improve bone mineralization and quality.

Vitamin D by Numbers:

So how much vitamin D do you actually need? Daily requirements generally depend on age:

  • 0-12 months: 400 IU
  • 1-70 years: 600 IU
  • 71+ years: 800 IU

A blood test measuring metabolized vitamin D in the bloodstream can help determine whether your blood vitamin D is within the optimum range. Levels under 30 nmol/l are considered deficient, while levels of 50 nmol/l or higher are considered normal.

Food Sources and Vitamin D Supplements:

Direct sunlight exposure is the best source for acquiring vitamin D, with food sources such as salmon, tuna, dairy products, and fortified cereals, among others, coming in at a close second.

For those who are unable to fully utilize dietary vitamin D due to certain medical conditions or food allergies, additional vitamin D supplements can also be prescribed. These supplements are available in two forms: D2 and D3.

Considering that state-of-the-art diagnostic tools like the one mentioned above are expensive and not widely available, a vitamin D-rich diet and yearly blood tests remain the best solutions for preventing bone disease and fractures. Consult with your doctor to find out if you are deficient in vitamin D, and how to correct it.

You can also book an appointment with a top Orthopedic Specialist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your nutritional deficiency concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.