A study from New Zealand shows that Vitamin D deficiency is common in older people, particularly those who do not go outside in the winter.

Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, liver, and fatty fish such as salmon and it is added to butter, cream, milk and margarine. These foods provide only half the vitamin D requirement for most North Americans. We get the rest from sunlight which converts a cholesterol compound in skin to a vitamin D precursor that is converted by the liver and kidneys to vitamin D.

Since many North Americans restrict high-cholesterol foods, they must depend on sunlight. Light-skinned people need 10 minutes a day, while dark-skinned ones need up to 30 minutes. Most people can meet half their vitamin D requirement by taking two cups of milk a day. Strict vegetarians need to eat fortified foods or take 5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D pills each day. Caution: Vitamin D is stored in your body fat, and too much can poison you.

SJ Ley, CC Horwath, JM Stewart. Attention is needed to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in our older population. New Zealand Medical Journal, 1999, Vol 112, Iss 1101, pp 471-472. Address Ley SJ, Univ Auckland, Dept Community Hlth, Auckland 1, NEW ZEALAND

Checked 5/3/07

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