Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease of the skeletal system. The most common bone disease, it is characterized by low bone mass and loss of bone density. This causes the bones to become weak and highly susceptible to fracture. Most of these fractures occur in the hip, spine and wrist.
There are no early warning signs or symptoms. The disease often goes undiagnosed until one suffers a painful break or fracture.
Unfortunately there is no known cause or cure for this disease. Fortunately however several risk factors have been identified and osteoporosis can be prevented. In order to understand osteoporosis and how to prevent it, you need to understand bone function.
Through a process called remodeling bone tissue is continually being removed and replaced. Throughout childhood, adolescence and early adulthood bone mass and density strengthens until it reaches its peak somewhere around age 30 in normal, healthy adults. After this and as the body ages bone density is lost. If too much is lost than the bones become weak, osteoporosis occurs and leads to fracture.
Promoting healthy bones is vitally important to the prevention of osteoporosis. There are several factors involved in this process. Vitamin D is one such factor. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. The major function of Vitamin D in the body is to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
Forms of Vitamin D
Vitamin D exists in several forms, all of which have different levels of activity. The most active form is Calciferol. Other forms of the vitamin in the body are relatively inactive.
The active form of Vitamin D functions as a hormone by sending messages to the intestine to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. The liver and kidney help convert Vitamin D to its active hormone form.
By now most people are aware of the important role that calcium plays in the body. Vitamin D plays a major role in the absorption of calcium and bone health.
Calcium and Vitamin D go hand in hand together. Vitamin D also works together with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones to promote bone mineralization.
Without Vitamin D, bones do not form properly and can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D also works in the kidneys in the resorption of calcium that would have otherwise been excreted by the body.
Studies have shown that at least half of those who are afflicted with osteoporosis have inadequate amounts of Vitamin D. The body naturally forms Vitamin D after direct exposure to sunlight. In order to manufacture and store an adequate amount of Vitamin D, ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure is recommended a few times weekly.
As the body ages the ability to make Vitamin D through the exposure of the skin to the sun diminishes. The major food sources of Vitamin D are fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver. To promote and maintain optimal bone health and to prevent osteoporosis, experts recommend the intake of 400-800 IU of Vitamin D. Too much Vitamin D can be harmful.