Around this time of year — when sunshine is in high demand and seasonal depression decides to make an appearance — “more vitamin D” always seems to be the first answer to any health problem. But could too much vitamin D be hurting the elderly?
According to the most recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers in Switzerland have found evidence that vitamin D supplements may actually pose a threat when too much of the vitamin is consumed.
Beyond just boosting one’s emotional well-being, vitamin D is also known to assist with building up muscular strength. For older adults, this means that vitamin D supplements are often recommended as a preventative measure against slips and falls, especially considering that bones become more brittle and weak with age. According to Health Day and Science World Report, however, higher doses of vitamin D aren’t likely to provide any substantial help — and may even increase the risk of falling among elderly patients.
The study examined 200 people in Switzerland, ages 70 and up, who had fallen at least once in the past year. The group was divided into three subgroups, each of which was given a different dosage of vitamin D3, and then tracked for a year. Although researchers expected that the highest dosage of vitamin D would yield the lowest number of falls, this actually wasn’t the case.
“Contrary to expectations, we found that actually the lowest dose was the most advantageous for any of the outcomes we looked at,” said Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, chair of Geriatrics and Aging Research at the University Hospital Zurich.
This ultimately means that a low dose of vitamin D — around 800 IU per day — is enough to provide support for elderly adults. While the evidence is still too slim to definitively connect high doses of vitamin D to increased falls, it seems that at the very least, this extra vitamin D doesn’t provide anything substantial.
Many adults already consume enough vitamin D naturally in their diets, as Time reported, and vitamin D3 is an affordable over-the-counter supplement. It’s typically found in dairy products, egg yolks, and certain types of fish (such as tuna and salmon). Despite common misconceptions, vitamin D isn’t actually a prominent component of most fruits and vegetables — but eating two cups of both food groups will still ensure that the body receives other nutrients so that the intestines can absorb enough vitamin D.
And of course, a simple 15-minute walk in the sunshine can also do the trick!