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The Best Vitamin D Supplements for Women Over 50 — Plus, MDs On Why You Need One

Keeping your vitamin D levels up improves sleep, speeds metabolism, strengthens muscles and more

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You know how important a daily dose of bone-strengthening vitamin D is, especially as we get older. And whether you top up your levels by soaking up the sun or eating D-rich foods, the superstar nutrient delivers total-body benefits, too. But for those of us who are struggling to get enough of the vitamin — whether because of cloudy days or nutrient gaps in our diets — supplements are crucial. And that may leave you wondering what the best vitamin D supplement is. Here, learn why vitamin D for 50 year old women is key, plus discover the best vitamin D supplements for women.

Why we don’t get enough vitamin D

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that becomes even more vital as we age. There are a few ways to get your daily dose: The first is to spend time in the sun. You body absorbs UVB rays and uses existing skin cholesterol to produce the vitamin. And while many folks think a few minutes in the sun can shore up their vitamin D stores, getting your daily dose this way is complicated.

“You cannot make vitamin D anywhere on this planet before 9 am and after 3 pm,” explains Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD, author of The Vitamin D Solution. “And in the wintertime, you can’t make any vitamin D.” He estimates that as many as 60% of us are deficient or get insufficient amounts of vitamin D. That’s also due in part to regular use of sunscreen, which prevents the absorption of UVB sunlight into skin needed to make vitamin D. (Click through to learn why vitamin D is the best vitamin to stop age-related muscle loss.)

You can also get the nutrient from savoring foods such as fatty fish, mushrooms and D-fortified milk and orange juice. The downside? vitamin D-fortified foods typically don’t have enough of the nutrient to keep your nutrient levels in the healthy range. The National Institutes of Health recommend supplementing with 600 IUs daily for adults. And a cup of D-fortified milk, for example, has just 25% of that daily allowance. But Dr. Holick says most people can, and should, opt for a higher dose to up levels. Instead, he suggests taking “1,500 to 2,000 units of vitamin D per day for adults, which is the recommendation of The Endocrine Society practice guidelines.”

And if you supplement in addition to the sun and food, you don’t need to worry about getting too much of the nutrient. Dr. Holick notes a daily vitamin D supplement won’t cause toxicity. Tip: Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so taking a supplement with some dietary fat (such as cheese or nuts) will give you the best absorption.

Related: Anxious and On-Edge? Doctors Share the Best Supplements to Tame Stress Naturally

Why vitamin D is vital for women over 50

Perhaps the reason most of us are familiar with vitamin D is for its bone bolstering abilities. Research in The Journal of Aging and Gerontology revealed that vitamin D is essential for protecting against osteoporosis, or weak and brittle bones, especially for elderly women. “When women are going into menopause, they lose 2-3% of their spine bone density per year,” says Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD, author of The Vitamin D Solution. “And one way to prevent that is to make sure they’re getting adequate vitamin D.”

The nutrient has been shown to reduce fracture risk by 33%, according to research in the journal Nutrients. And while vitamin D can’t reverse bone loss, Dr. Holick notes that it prevents osteoporosis, especially when the best vitamin D supplements are taken alongside bone-building calcium. Why? Your body needs vitamin D (ideally as D-3, its most absorbable form) to hep absorb calcium. Together, the nutrient duo safeguards against weak bones and painful breaks. (Click through to learn why sardines are an excellent source of calcium and how to prevent osteoporosis without drugs.)

Illustration of the stages of osteoporosis
art4stock/Getty

More health benefits of vitamin D for women over 50

The benefits don’t end with a stronger skeleton. Here’s what else it can do:

1. Enhance sleep

Research shows folks who keep their levels of vitamin D in the healthy range sleep up to 1 hour and 10 minutes longer each night, according to a study in Nutritional Neuroscience. That’s especially helpful during shorter, darker days, when your body’s ability to produce adequate stores of the vitamin dips. (Click through for more on the link between vitamin D and fatigue and how vitamin D wards off an afternoon slump.)

2. Block dizzy spells

If “the spins” throw the world off kilter when all you did was look up or roll over in bed, you’re likely low on vitamin D. The nutrient feeds the vestibular system in the inner ear that keeps you steady on your feet. Research cited in the Journal Science Progress found that when folks with vertigo (also called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV) upped their intake of vitamin D, they cut the risk of future dizzy spells up to 82%. (Click through to our sister publication to learn how stress can cause vertigo — and how to cure it).

3. Ward off diabetes

Turns out simply shoring up your stores of this key nutrient can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes up to 78%, suggests Tufts University research. It works by improving insulin sensitivity and taming chronic inflammation that can contribute to diabetes.

4. Strengthen muscles

As we age, our muscles gradually lose strength, a condition known as dynapenia. That can make it harder to do everything from open up a jar of peanut butt to stay steady on our feet. But supplementing with vitamin D daily can slash the risk of dynapenia by 78% in women over 50, according to a study in Calcified Tissue International. Vitamin D plays an important role in building strength, triggering the release of calcium that repairs and tightens lax muscles.

Blonde woman over 50  who supplements with vitamin D, in white t-shirt flexing her bicep muscles
AaronAmat/Getty

5. Faster metabolism

Struggling to lose a few stubborn pounds? It’s vitamin D to the rescue! Research in the Journal of the American Nutrition Association suggests upping your vitamin D levels can trim 2″ off your waistline and help you lose 12 lbs. in 24 weeks. The nutrient with supercharges your body’s ability to burn fat effortlessly. 

6. Soothe eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that causes dry, itchy, red skin. And when it flares up, you want reliable relief. That’s where vitamin D comes in . A study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that a daily dose of vitamin D cuts eczema 56%—that’s better than the most commonly prescribed prescription! (Click through to learn more about vitamin D-3 benefits for women.)

The best vitamin D supplements for women over 50

You’ll want to check with your doctor to ensure the supplement you’re taking meets your specific dietary needs. But once you’ve gotten the go ahead, we’ve rounded up the best vitamin D supplement options for women. Keep reading for Woman’s World’s picks for best vitamin D supplements for women over 50! 

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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