Vitamin D does many important things within the body that may benefit the spine and the parts that support it, including increasing the ability to absorb the calcium needed for optimal bone health. Because it’s not always possible to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from diet alone, it’s often recommended that older adults consider taking supplements. However, a new study suggests getting vitamin D from dairy products and other dietary sources may be a more effective way to increase bone density and reduce the risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis or needing spine surgery. Santa Monica residents who want to learn how vitamin D increases bone density should read the following information.
What Is the Connection Between Dairy Foods and Bone Health?
For their study, Harvard Medical School researchers evaluated bone density characteristics and the dairy consumption habits of nearly 3,000 adults in various age groups. It was discovered that men who ate more dairy products had higher bone density levels and vertebral strength compared to subjects who didn’t consume as much dairy, even with those who were taking vitamin D supplements. A similar correlation wasn’t discovered with women.
How Does Vitamin D Boost Bone Density?
Technically considered a prohormone because of its ability to be synthesized in the body when absorbed from sunlight exposure, vitamin D plays a role in keeping the immune and nervous systems healthy, which, in turn, helps the tissues in the bones, including the ones within the spine (vertebrae, facet joints). All cells in the body have receptors for D vitamins that allow these nutrients to work within bone tissues. Vitamin D also supports bone strength and health by:
- Maintaining sufficient phosphorus levels in the circulating blood
- Regulating calcium distribution throughout the body
- Minimizing issues with muscle weakness that can place added stress on bones
- Increasing the immune system protection that helps bone tissues naturally heal
How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?
The overall conclusion of the study is that simply taking supplements may not increase bone density enough to prevent issues that can develop from bones that aren’t as dense, such as an increased risk of disc degeneration and spinal fractures. There are two forms of vitamin D you can get from dietary sources. D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in some mushroom varieties. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the kind found in egg yolks and oily fish. With dairy products as a source of vitamin D, the general recommendation is 2-3 servings per day. Bone density may be increased further when vitamin D is combined with other essential bone nutrients, including:
- Protein and phosphorus
- Antioxidants found in foods with high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene (to reduce damage to cells in bone tissues)
It’s estimated that approximately 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have lower than normal vitamin D levels, although there has been some debate over whether or not vitamin D deficiency (milder insufficiency) is at epidemic levels. Even so, it is more common in people living with chronic pain. Researchers are in general agreement about the need to counter the progressive loss of bone density that occurs naturally with age by paying attention to eating habits, which means opting for foods with higher concentrations of vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Other than dairy products, reliable sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, beef liver, and foods fortified with vitamin D (e.g. certain breakfast cereals, orange juice, and soy milk).
Weak bones can lead to an unhealthy spine. Luckily there are many ways to treat spinal conditions, including various fusion procedures and alternatives to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica patients who are seeking a solution to alleviating their chronic pain should call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.