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Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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The Latest News on Vitamin D

I’ve been reading about the importance of vitamin D since 2008, when the “sunshine vitamin” became the “it” supplement that everyone was talking about in books, magazine articles, and even among medical researchers. Since then, nearly every vitamin D research study or article I’ve read has added yet another condition to the list of ills that Vitamin D is said to prevent or cure.

There’s no doubt about its many benefits for bone health and muscle mass, the cardio-vascular and immune system, blood sugar control and, as some research has shown, protection against some cancers. 

But recently, one of the conditions that vitamin D was believed to help -- depression -- was taken off the long list of benefits following an analysis of the data from the Women’s Health Initiative Calcium and Vitamin D Trial. The researchers did say that “adequate vitamin D is still important for optimal health in multiple ways, but patients with depression will have to do more than raise their vitamin D levels to feel better.”

Vitamin D and Weight Gain

On the other hand, another recent study -- this time for post-menopausal women aged 65 and older -- showed a link, for the first time, between vitamin D deficiency and weight gain, suggesting yet another way that we can benefit from vitamin D as we age. What I found most significant about this study, though, was that 80 percent of the 4,600 women who participated had insufficient vitamin D levels. That means that their bodies were not absorbing calcium properly, putting them at greater risk for bone fractures.

Is there a chance that you’re at risk too?

A Vital Sign to Be Monitored

Vitamin D is a nutrient the body produces in response to sun exposure. It’s one of 13 vitamins our bodies need to function properly, so knowing if your body is making enough of it, as shown by a simple blood test called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, is as important a vital sign to monitor as your cholesterol numbers and blood pressure. If it’s too low, as mine was the first time I had it checked, it can be optimized with supplements and fortified foods.

Some experts advise us to check our vitamin D levels as often as every six months. One way to do this is to order a home test kit online. I’ve done this myself and it’s easy and a lot less expensive than going to a commercial lab where a doctor’s prescription is required. The Vitamin D Council, a non-profit organization formed to educate the general public about the importance of vitamin D to our health, states on their website that “the home test kits are “accurate and reliable” and that “their method corresponds very well to the gold standard of vitamin D blood tests.”

To learn more about home test kits and where to find them, see my summary of resources in this blogpost.


Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com.






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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.