Skip to content

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Too Many Elderly Lacking in Vitamin D

To explore this issue further, go to WebMD's Active Aging: Open Discussion chat board. continued...

Endocrinologist Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, who also studies vitamin D deficiency, agrees that older patients may need more than 800 IU of supplemental vitamin D each day, but he warned that no one should take high doses of the vitamin unless they first clear it with their doctor.

"Routinely taking more than 800 IU without consulting a doctor could be very dangerous, especially if a person is also self-medicating with calcium supplementation," Mechanick says. "That could lead to hypercalcemia, or excessively high levels of calcium in the blood, which could be life threatening."

Mechanick, who is an associate clinical professor of medicine at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says the hypothesis that treating vitamin D deficiencies may help bedridden or wheelchair-bound elderly people become more mobile is intriguing, but needs much more study.

Last year Garg and colleagues reported the cases of five wheelchair-bound patients in Buffalo, N.Y. -- three of whom were elderly -- who were suffering from severe muscle weakness caused by a lack of vitamin D. When the five patients were treated with megadoses of the vitamin, all were able to walk again. It was this study, Garg says, that led him to examine vitamin D deficiencies in the elderly.

"You can't draw conclusions from anecdotal data, which is what this study was," Mechanick says. "These findings indicate that vitamin D is a magic bullet, and that is not very likely. One might hypothesize, from what we do know, that vitamin D could make a patient stronger. But before we jump to conclusions we need to study this further."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing