This Vitamin is Critical for Building Better Bones

February 13, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Douglas G. Wright, M.D. contributes to topics such as Orthopedics.

By Brianna McCabe

All humans have one thing in common: underneath the intricately complex layers of a person’s body – past the skin tissue, major organs and muscles – there is a skeleton.

The skeletal system for most fully grown adults is comprised of 206 bones and is critical to providing a framework and support for the body, protecting vital organs, producing blood cells and assisting in overall movement.

“It is important to keep your bones healthy and strong, but unfortunately bone health is often overlooked until a problem, such as a fracture, occurs,” says Douglas G. Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group.

According to Dr. Wright, while most people understand the importance of proper calcium intake for long-term bone health, they tend to neglect one other important element: vitamin D.

Why is vitamin D important?

“Vitamin D is necessary to calcify or ossify bones,” explains Dr. Wright. “If you don’t have vitamin D, then your body doesn’t make hard, solid bones.”

Eventually this can lead to osteoporosis (a disease that occurs when the bones deteriorate and/or become brittle) in older adults or osteomalacia (the softening of bones) in people of all ages, says Dr. Wright, adding that vitamin D is also necessary for proper wound and fracture healing.

“There are higher incidents of surgical site and deep wound infections in patients with vitamin D deficiency,” he says.

Vitamin D is also essential to muscle contraction and strength, and without the necessary intake, your body can become weak and hinder forms of rehabilitation for orthopedic patients, adds Dr. Wright.

What is the relationship between vitamin D and calcium?

“Vitamin D and calcium work hand-in-hand for bone health,” shares Dr. Wright. “Vitamin D is critical for bone formation and fracture healing, and if you have low levels, then it is going to be difficult to incorporate calcium into the bone. Ultimately, you can’t have one without the other.”

What are the major sources of vitamin D?

Vitamin D mainly comes from the following three sources:

  • Sunlight. “Sunlight is typically the best source of vitamin D,” clarifies Dr. Wright, “but this is an issue for people who live in areas of the world where the amount of sunlight is restricted due to seasonality, geographical location or blockage such as clouds or smog.”
  • Diet. Most dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheeses, as well as fatty fishes are a good source of vitamin D. A large portion of foods in the United States are enriched with vitamin D, adds Dr. Wright.
  • Supplements.

How much vitamin D do you need?

“The average person needs about 2,000 IU (international units) a day; however, if the person is overweight or obese it is recommended to double that dosage and aim for 4,000 IU,” says Dr. Wright. Conversely, the average child needs roughly 1,000 IU a day.

“It is important to note, though, that some people may require more vitamin D if they are deficient due to conditions such as kidney or renal disease, osteoporosis or malnourishment,” continues Dr. Wright.

Should I get my vitamin D levels tested?

According to Dr. Wright, the following individuals should connect with their health care team to test their vitamin D levels if:

  • You had a recent fracture.
  • There is a family history of hip fractures, particularly with an elderly, fair-skinned female relative.
  • You are losing inches off your height.
  • You are malnourished or experiencing muscle weakness.
  • You have been hospitalized and/or placed in a situation with remarkably decreased physical activity.

“Vitamin D baseline blood work should be part of a routine annual assessment,” says Dr. Wright. “It is an easily diagnosed and treatable deficiency.”

Dr. Wright practices at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group – Orthopedic Surgery in Manahawkin (1173 Beacon Avenue). If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wright, call 609-978-8900. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.