It's hard to appreciate strong bones until you experience the effect of a broken one. While overall bone growth stops in your twenties, you can count on them staying relatively strong and stable until you reach age 50. After this milestone age, bone loss speeds up and rebuilding slows down, especially once menopause starts for women.
As with most parts of aging, you don't have to accept weak bones as an inevitable fate—you can do something about it! While exercise and eating well can help, you may want to consider a supplement to keep your bones strong after age 50. A vitamin D supplement can help maximize bone strength and minimize bone loss as you age.
Without enough vitamin D, calcium can't do its job of maintaining bone mass and strength. Calcium is a mineral necessary for bone growth, but you may not need to supplement calcium if you eat a variety of foods. After age 51, women need 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day, while men need 1,000 milligrams each day. Eating a few servings of dairy, soy, or canned fish along with fortified foods and drinks can help you easily meet your daily calcium needs.
"Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium, a key component of strong bones. As we age, our vitamin D levels tend to decrease, often due to decreased sun exposure," says Amanda Lane, MS, RD, CDCES, founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition, LLC. Adults 51 to 70 years old need at least 15 micrograms of vitamin D daily.
Why you may need to supplement your diet with vitamin D
Vitamin D is harder to find in foods. The only foods that naturally contain vitamin D are fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. Dairy products and other drinks can be fortified with vitamin D.
While your body can make its own vitamin D through sun exposure, the process becomes less effective with age. Having dark skin, spending time indoors, and living in a northern latitude also increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
A European study with over 6,000 adults over age 50 found that 26.4% of adults were deficient in vitamin D. Without enough vitamin D, the body can't absorb calcium into the bones, speeding the bone loss process.
Best types of vitamin D supplements
You can find vitamin D supplements available as D3 or D2. Studies have found that vitamin D3 is more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D, making it the better option to reach for.
Before adding a supplement, always speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that the excess is stored in fat tissues. This makes it easier to overdose on vitamin D than on water-soluble vitamins that your body can get rid of more easily.