Is osteoporosis linked to calcium and vitamin D deficiency? The short answer would be yes. However, it deserves further, more in-depth analysis.
Despite the common belief that calcium is the best mineral to keep your bones (and teeth!) in great shape, remember that vitamin D is just as important because it also contributes to the prevention of osteoporosis.
More specifically, what vitamin D does is help your intestines absorb calcium from the food you ingest, hence increasing bone density. Another main difference between calcium and vitamin D is that the former can only be absorbed through food, while the latter is also the consequence of exposure to sunlight. This is why it is very important to spend time outdoors during the warmest seasons of the year and to get daily sun exposure on bare skin several times per week. Sun exposure allows your body to produce vitamin D through the skin and to store it (and use it) during winter.
Of course, if you live in a sunny region, getting enough sunlight is quite easy. On the other hand, people living in colder areas could experience difficulties generating vitamin D, especially during the autumn and winter months, and might have to resort to supplements.
Exposing your skin to sunlight is critical yet should be done consciously and carefully. The amount of vitamin D your skin can get from sunrays depends on several factors such as the time of day you are outside and your skin complexion. If you are fair-skinned, 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight a day are usually enough, while if you’re dark-skinned, you should stay outside from 1 to 2 hours every day. Remember to always protect your skin with sunscreen to avoid the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D can also be absorbed through specific foods, albeit partially (only about 20% of the amount of vitamin D our body makes comes from eating). Fatty fish (tuna, salmon or mackerel), cheese, egg yolks and beef liver, for example, all contain this vitamin. Foods with added vitamin D can also be consumed, such as vegan beverages, cereal and orange juice. The recommended amount of vitamin D for adults up to age 70 is 600 IU (International Unit) per day, which increases to 800 IU for older individuals.
When it comes to vitamin deficiency and bone health, calcium and vitamin D are two of the main protagonists. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of hypovitaminosis.
Calcium deficiency: symptoms
Calcium deficiency (hypocalcaemia) is linked to osteoporosis and osteopenia. Its symptoms include:
- Confusion and memory loss
- Depression and hallucinations
- Muscle spasms and numbness/tingling in the feet, hands and face
- Weak and brittle fingernails and toenails
- Muscle cramps
- Weak bones
- Fragile and thin skin
- Slower hair growth
- Tooth decay
- Tooth mobility
- Tooth loss
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Seizures, as calcium plays a significant role in neurotransmitter release and muscle contractions
- Back pain and stooped posture
Vitamin D deficiency: symptoms
Vitamin D deficiency also has a series of related symptoms. The most important are:
- Impaired wound healing
- Reduced efficiency in fighting off infections
- Bone pain
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Hair loss
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Periodontal disease
- Low mineral bone density
- Infectious and chronic inflammatory diseases
Vitamin D deficiency is linked not just to osteoporosis, but also to osteopenia. Studies have shown an eerie connection between osteoporosis, alveolar bone density and tooth loss.