70% of Europeans are vitamin D deficient, a situation that is aggravating osteoporosis, loss of motor coordination and bone fractures, researchers have concluded.
Focusing on post-menopausal women, the researchers led by Faustino R Pérez-López, a researcher from the University of Zaragoza in Spain, noted the bone problems could be cut if vitamin D levels rose, and he urged healthcare professionals to do more about it.
“We believe that many diseases can be aggravated by a chronic deficiency of vitamin D,” Pérez-López said, recommending blood levels of 30ng/ml vitamin D to provoke real health improvements in the bone and joint conditions as well as the immune system.
He added, “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.”
Pérez-López’s team was drawn from the European Menopause and Andropause society (EMAS), and was backed by 11 vitamin D experts from the likes of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
They concluded that postmenopausal women should take vitamin D supplements.
“The World Health Organization or other relevant bodies belonging to the European Union should establish minimum requirements or recommendations on the fortification of foods with vitamin D,” Pérez-López said.
Down on D
Vitamin D deficiency in adults is reported to precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and diabetes.
The science supporting the muscle function of vitamin D, as well as the vitamin's role in immune health, is sufficiently robust to have merited a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Despite such proclamations of support, many people across the world are not getting enough vitamin D.
While our bodies do manufacture vitamin D on exposure to sunshine, the levels in some northern countries are so weak during the winter months that our body makes no vitamin D at all, meaning that dietary supplements and fortified foods are seen by many as the best way to boost intakes of vitamin D.
While recommended daily intakes vary, 600IU (international units) of vitamin D is commonly recommended for women of up to 70 years of age and 800IU/day for women over 70 years.
Pérez-López said evidence supported consumption as high as 4000IU per day especially in areas where sunlight is limited.
Volume 71, 2012, pp 83-88
'Vitamin D and postmenopausal health'
Authors: Faustino R. Pérez-López, Marc Brincat, C. Tamer Erel, Florence Tremollieres, Marco Gambacciani, Irene Lambrinoudaki, Mette H. Moen, Karin Schenck-Gustafsson, Svetlana Vujovic, Serge Rozenberg, Margaret Rees