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Vitamin D Supplements May Keep Bones Strong

Vitamin D could help prevent osteoporosis and falls in older adults.  That’s the message from an aging specialist from Madison giving a talk at this week’s Science on Tap discussion.    

Winter in the Northwoods means…not a lot of sunshine.  And that means not a lot of Vitamin D.  Dr Neil Binkley is Director of the Osteoporosis Clinical Research program at UW Madison.  WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski talked with Dr. Binkley to find out why Vitamin D supplements might be important for preventing osteoporosis and bone fractures.    

Binkley says there’s a strong link between Vitamin D and calcium absorption needed for strong bones.   He says it’s also important for muscle function.  Humans naturally produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight…but it’s not so easy in winter. 

“This time of year in Wisconsin, we cannot make any Vitamin D because the sun’s rays are so low. And as a result, all the UVB rays are absorbed by the atmosphere.”

Even in summer, many sunscreens block the rays necessary for Vitamin D production. 

Binkley says Vitamin D supplements may be especially important for older adults who are at risk for injury due to falls.  There’s controversy over how much Vitamin D is needed to maintain a healthy blood level, but Binkley advises a middle of the road amount. 

“My commonsense approach to this is to look at people who are making vitamin D naturally or normally…people who are highly sun exposed, like lifeguards or outdoor construction workers. People who are making Vitamin D in their skin naturally and normally, and say what do they run?”

Binkley says he tends to recommend a daily dose of 1000 international units of Vitamin D, though that may not be right for everyone. 

Dr. Binkley is speaking Wednesday night at the informal lecture series Science on Tap.  

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