One day we are trucking along enjoying our youth. And then one day we wake up in our 50s, and we find creaks, cracks, and other feelings that we never experienced before.
Unfortunately, as our age increases, our risk for developing certain health conditions like osteoporosis, cancer, and hypertension increase as well. In other words, a 50-year-old body is very different than a 20-year-old body. And because of this, taking certain supplements may result in some surprising effects once we reach a certain age. (Related: Best Supplements for People Over 50, Say Nutrition Experts.)
Many of us have jumped on the vitamin D supplementation bandwagon over the past few years. This supplement has become so popular that it is now the second most common supplement consumed by Americans, second to a general multivitamin. And with prevalence rates of severe vitamin D deficiency being 5.9% in the US, it is certainly a good thing that many people are trying to combat this situation.
Vitamin D is unique because, when exposed to the sun, the human body can make this nutrient. But since most of us are not baking in the sun like we used to, the opportunity to produce this key vitamin gets diminished.
Plus, the skin’s capacity to produce vitamin D in older people has been estimated to be about 25% of that in persons aged 20–30 years exposed to the same amount of sunlight.
If you are over 50 and you fall into the category of “vitamin D supplement taker”, here are some side effects that you may experience.
As people age, their risk of osteoporosis increases. Approximately 10 million adults, over the age of 50, suffer from osteoporosis and 34 million have reduced bone mass or osteopenia. Fortunately, supplementation with vitamin D has been liked to higher bone mineral density and a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis (weaker bones).
Especially in the case of women who are post-menopausal, focusing on bone health is key, as the risk of fracture is increased. And who wants to deal with a bone fracture when you don’t have to?
Over half of depression cases manifest later in life. And late-onset depression is associated with increased risk of morbidity, increased risk of suicide, decreased physical, cognitive and social functioning, and greater self-neglect, all of which are in turn associated with increased mortality.
Several vitamin D receptors have been identified in the brain that affect mood, suggesting that low vitamin D levels may be associated with cognitive decline and symptoms of depression.
There are direct links between low levels of serum vitamin D higher late-life depression risk. Taking vitamin D supplements can help support healthy vitamin D levels, possibly combatting depression risk.
Advancing age is the most important risk factor for certain cancers. The incidence rates for cancer overall climb steadily as age increases, meaning that finding ways to reduce the risk as age increases is key.
Results from a study published in BMJ suggest that high levels of vitamin D are associated with a 20% lower risk of certain cancers in both men and women compared with those with low vitamin D levels. If you are taking vitamin D supplements and end up having levels on the higher side, you may notice a reduced risk of certain cancers too.
There is an association between low levels of vitamin D and many diseases associated with aging, one being hypertension. The risk for hypertension increases significantly as a person ages.
Observational data have shown an association between low vitamin D levels and an increased incidence of high blood pressure as well as risk for hypertension. So, one surprising side effect you may experience if you regularly take vitamin D supplements is healthy blood pressure, although that doesn’t mean you can’t neglect following an overall healthy diet.
As a person ages, their immune system gradually deteriorates. An association between low levels of serum vitamin D and increased risk of developing several immune-related diseases and disorders (including COVID-19) has been seen. Along with washing your hands and following all of the CDC recommendations, making sure your vitamin D levels are in check may help you keep the ick away.
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Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC