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Vitamin D is essential for the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for functions such as the development of bones; healthy nervous and immune systems; regulation of some hormones; and normal cell growth and maturation.
Vitamin D is required throughout life. It is needed for optimal bone mineralisation in children especially during times when sunlight exposure is limited. In pregnancy the requirement for vitamin D increases in women due to calcium deposition and bone mineralisation in the developing baby. The elderly too may have an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. In this group vitamin D may help improve muscle strength, walking distance and functional ability.
The people who can most benefit from supplementation are the elderly, those who avoid the sun, people with dark skin or who wear concealing clothing and people with reduced absorption of nutrients from the gut. In the absence of sun exposure, 1000 IU per day of cholecalciferol is needed to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements with added calcium is recommended if you are not obtaining enough calcium through your diet. This combination to strengthen bone and tissue in older adults is also beneficial for women after menopause when a woman’s calcium requirements are increased and may assist in the prevention and/or treatment of osteoporosis.