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Are You and Older Loved Ones Truly Getting Vitamin D?

Being secured inside could be perilous, especially for seniors

Even with so many years of consumer information about vitamins, mineral, and other nutrients, not all Americans know what vitamin D does for us, how much we need daily, and where we get it. Now we might need it even more--but it may be harder to get.

It's gaining importance

New data--in a study in the Sept. 25 edition of PLOS ONE--found that hospitalized patients with solid vitamin D intake had fewer COVID complications. It meant they were less likely to suffer from lowered blood oxygen levels or losing consciousness. And death was 51.5% less likely among those getting proper vitamin D levels.

The leader of the above study, Dr. Len Horovitz (a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City) also reported other vitamin D benefits in a different study. He found that among folks getting adequate amounts of this nutrient, the risk of getting infected with COVID dropped by 54 percent.

And then there are the basics

Even before the above studies, experts touted vitamin D. It not only builds strong bones, 21st century reports have added the belief that it builds muscles function--and perhaps fights cancer.

And have you ever heard of "osteomalasia"? It's the distortion of how your bones are laid out. Lack of D increases that risk.

There's also a good reason vitamin D and calcium go together. It's D that helps your body absorb and then metabolize calcium.

The hard-to-glean nutrient

It's hard to get vitamin D naturally. You can get many vitamins and minerals from all sorts of plants, fruits, and veggies, plus certain animals. You may think you get vitamin D from milk--but not if it comes directly from the critter. Only foods with D added have it, and that's mostly milk and maybe some other dairy products.

Otherwise, fatty fish--including tuna and salmon--provide some vitamin D. But neither the dairy nor these fish sources provide most of your daily D dosage.

But wait, you say. It's in today's vitamins, right?

Well yes--but there are two issues with that argument. First, not everyone takes a multivitamin daily. So right there, many of you are not getting your minimum daily dose. But even if you do take a supplement, you can't just figure yours has the amount of vitamin D intake you truly need.

That's especially true of folks ages 50 and older; they have to be particularly careful about vitamin D deficiency. Most vitamins meet the 400 International Units (IUs) generally recommended, but did you know 800 IUs are what's recommended for older consumers?

Dreary months bring extra risks

So where does vitamin D come from? Sunshine!

With fall season here and winter looming, our risks of immune systems weakening rise. To get proper vitamin D from the sun, we all need about 15 minutes of that exposure daily. Between shorter days and going outdoors less (even without a pandemic) many of us don't get enough sunshine to provide our D needs.

So what do you do?

"Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19," says Dr. Horovitz.

So if you're drinking milk, check how much vitamin D is there. Then check your multivitamin. Whatever you have to add, factor in that D supplement Horovitz (and others) recommends. ###


For more easy insights, the NIH offers a great cheat sheet on this nutrient.


Wendy Meyeroff has been reporting on a wide range health issues to both professionals and consumers for 20+ years. Her specialties are covering America's aging population (before many bothered) and ghostwriting, especially corporate materials.

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