A new study on the effects of vitamin D found that too much can lead to slower reaction times and increase the risk of falls among older people. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps form and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Without this, our bodies can not absorb calcium, which is the main component of bone.
Vitamin D can also protect against cancer and diabetes. Our bodies synthesize vitamin D when sunlight reaches the skin . The amount of vitamin D produced by our skin depends on several factors, including the place where we live, the season and the pigmentation of the skin. During winter, the production of vitamin D may decrease or be completely absent.
We can also get vitamin D from salmon, sardines, canned tuna, oysters and shrimp. Vegetarians can obtain this vitamin by consuming egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified food products such as soy milk, cereals and oatmeal.
Vitamin D in older adults
It may be harder for some older adults to absorb vitamin D, as they may not be exposed to the sun regularly. In this case, taking a vitamin supplement or a multivitamin containing vitamin D can help improve bone health and improve memory.
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with diseases such as dementia, depression, diabetes, autism and schizophrenia.
As we age, it is crucial to ensure that our bodies get the correct amount of vitamin D, since the risk of cognitive decline and dementia may increase.
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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is:
Infants from 0 to 12 months: 400 international units (UI).
children from 1 to 18 years old: 600 IU
adults up to 70 years old: 600 IU
adults over 70: 800 IU
pregnant or lactating women: 600 IU
While it is crucial to take vitamin D, excessive exposure can also present risks. A study conducted by Rutgers University found that older overweight or obese women who took more than three times the recommended daily dose of vitamin D had slower reaction times.
Slower reaction times may increase the risk of falls.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1 in 4 adults over 65 will fall each year. This is equivalent to 29 million falls, 3 million visits to the emergency room, 800,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths.
Recently, scientists from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, conducted a study that analyzes risk factors for falls. They published their results in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.
They analyzed the effects of vitamin D in three groups of women aged 50 to 70 years in a randomized controlled trial:
-The first group took the recommended daily dose of 600 IU.
-The second group took 2,000 IU.
-The third took 4,000 IU.
The results showed an improvement in memory and learning in the groups that took more than the recommended daily dose. However, the same groups also experienced a slowdown in reaction times.
“The slower reaction time may have other negative results, such as a potential increase in the risk of falls and fractures,” says the study’s lead author, Sue Shapses.
“This is possible because other researchers have found that vitamin D supplementation to approximately 2,000 IU daily or an increased risk of falls, but did not understand the cause.”
Dr Shapses believes that the team’s findings indicate that a slower reaction time may be the reason behind the increased risk of falls.
According to scientists, taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day may not be a problem for young people, but could compromise the ability of older adults to walk or regain balance to avoid falling.
More studies are needed to determine if slower reaction times are related to an increased risk of falls and injuries.
Examining different doses of vitamin D supplements in people of different ages and different races over a longer period could be the next step to further investigate the problem.