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How much vitamin D does a postmenopausal woman need?

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday March 2, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review recently published in Current Medical Research and Opinion says that the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) now recomends that women who have less than 50 nmol/L or 20 ng/mL of vitamin D should take 800 to 1000 IU of this vitamin per day to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D.

Prof R. Rizzoli from Division of Bone Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine Specialties, Geneva University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine in Geneva, Switzerland and colleagues, reports that they found vitamin D has both skeletal and extra-skeletal benefits.   

Specifically, the authors say women with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels lower than 50 nmol/L are at risk of increased bone turnover, bone loss and possibility mineralization defects, compared with those having greater than 50 nmol/L of vitamin D.   Women with such a low vitmain D level are also at higher risk for frailty, nonvertebral and hip fracture and all-cause mortality.

According to the authors, the ESCEO now recommends that women should maintain serum vitamin D levels at 50 nmol/L or 20 ng/mL or higher.  Those whose serum vitamin D falls below this level should have 800 to 1000 IU per day.

The authors say vitamin D supplementation is safe in a dose of up to 10,000 IU per day resulting in an upper limit of 125 nmol/L 25(OH)D.

The ESCEO recommends that those who at an elevated risk for falls and fracture should maintain a minimal serum vitamin D level at 75 nmol/L or 30 ng/ml for the best impact on fracture.

In the U.S., the Institute of Medicine recommends that infants younger than 12 months have 400 IU and people over 71 years have 800 IU of vitamin D per day.  It also recomends that individuals at any other age should have daily intake of 600 IU of vitamin D.  This recommendation has drawn critism from many vitamin D experts who say that the recommeded daily allownce is way too low.
The best source of vitamin D is the sun.  Expsoure of bare hands and the face to the sun for 15 to 20 minutes at the hottes hours of the day in Summer may lead to the synthesis of 10,000 IU of vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with over 100 health conditions including depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure among others. 

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