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Osteoporosis might lie in the letter “D”
Sixty-year-old Darlene Yates has had two hip
replacements, a knee replacement and this
past year shattered her left femur while she
was walking in her neighborhood. Her
diagnosis seemed obvious -- osteoporosis.
But it turns out she had bone weakness
caused by a vitamin D deficiency.
“I thought with my age and all my broken
bones that I definitely had osteoporosis,”
Yates said. “The low vitamin D levels really
took me by surprise.”
Vitamin D promotes the
absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It
regulates how much calcium remains in the
blood and how much makes its way to the
bones and teeth. It also has been found to
reduce the risk of breast, colon and ovarian
Vitamin D deficiency
contributes to osteoporosis by reducing
calcium absorption and osteoporosis is an
example of the long-term effects of vitamin
In a recent review of
women with osteoporosis hospitalized for hip
fractures, 50 percent were found to have
signs of vitamin D deficiency.
Low levels are most
often seen in older women; however, times
appear to be changing.
“I am seeing many
active, young women and men who have
dangerously low vitamin D levels,” said Dr.
Kenneth Mathis, chairman of orthopedic
surgery with The Methodist Center for
“I believe if these
people begin taking the daily recommended
amount of vitamin D when they are younger,
and get their levels tested regularly, that
they might be able to prevent osteoporosis
and certain cancers when they get older.”
Sources of vitamin D
include fortified milk, cod liver oil, fish
such as sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel,
some yogurt and breakfast cereals, and the
However, if you wear an
SPF of eight or more, you will have a tough
time converting the sunlight into vitamin D.
Most adults over age 50
need to take a daily supplement of vitamin D
if they don’t think they are getting the
daily recommended amount.
Adults under age 50,
including pregnant women, need 200 IU of
vitamin D daily. A person over age 50 needs
400 IU daily and it goes up to over 600 IU
at age 70.
Mathis says taking the
correct amount is important because too much
vitamin D can be toxic. Vitamin D is stored
in the liver and in the fat tissue.
When you take too much
it cannot leave the body as easily as water
soluble vitamins such as vitamin C. The
excess vitamin D can lead to too much
calcium in the blood, which can cause kidney
stones and/or kidney failure.
Yates has begun a
strict vitamin D regimen to build up her
levels. She says she has more energy than
she ever has and is feeling better.
“I’m hoping that I can
get to where I don’t break any more bones
and have to have any more surgeries,” Yates
said. “If I would have known about the link
between vitamin D and bone weakness 40 years
ago, you can bet I would have done something