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Vitamin D3 is often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as it is manufactured in the skin through the action of sunlight. Small amounts can also be obtained from food sources, such as cod liver oil, which is a rich natural source.
Vitamin D3 stimulates the absorption of calcium from the small intestine, and the reabsorption of calcium from the kidneys. A major function of calcium is building and maintaining bones and teeth. Vitamin D decreases parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels which decreases the amount of calcium released from bone. This is important for maintaining bone density.
Adequate levels of vitamin D throughout life are important for building and maintaining healthy bone mass, and hence in maintaining bone density. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with reduced bone density and increased risk of hip fracture in the elderly.
Vitamin D has the added benefit of helping to improve muscle strength in the elderly. Improving muscle strength can help to reduce the incidence of falls, which can reduce the risk of fractures.