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My 105-year-old Grandma's Case for Vitamin D!

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You might wonder why I typically refer to my aging grandmother in my articles. Well, first of all, in her 105th year of life, she has had her share of wellness issues over the past century, and we can usually get some genuine insight from those.

Also, her sense of humor and her no-frills attitude make for some good added fodder for these articles. I am not exploiting her. I am merely borrowing some of her insight and transposing it for the 21st century. Besides, she is 250 miles away from me…she’ll never know!

So, in keeping in tune with bone-related articles, I have to say that Grandma’s bones are in pretty good shape for her mature age. I assume she gets the necessary vitamins and minerals in her diet to keep her skeleton in fine form. I know for a fact that she shuns dairy, loves Cinnabon rolls, turns up her nose at any fruit product, eats salt like candy, and relies upon a steady diet of McDonald’s breakfast items and their free coffee. Did I just frighten you? If so, then consider Grandma a medical miracle. I am sure some scientists will want to examine her body post-mortem some day to find out how she ate like this for decades and thrived.

For the rest of us, however, we have to opt for different avenues of health to keep our bones in prime condition. As for me, I just came in from an hour spent by the pool, basking under the warmth of the glorious sun. (Oh, dear! I just admitted that I might have some slacker tendencies! Let me retract that admission. It was not an hour. It was ten minutes, and I was soaking up my daily quota of the sunshine vitamin – Mr. Vitamin D!)

According to www.dairycouncilofca.org, Vitamin D is frequently referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” Our bodies can produce this vitamin when we expose our skin to just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day on our face, hands, and arms, sans sunscreen. This will meet our daily needs for this powerful vitamin. However, certain climates, weather conditions, and geographical locations do not allow for this sort of absorption, so we need to seek other sources of vitamin D. We can find these in items such as fortified milk, yogurt, salmon, tuna, and sardines.

Add a Comment12 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's a good article and sounds like my great grandma. She just turned 105 April 28 2012.

May 7, 2012 - 3:00pm


I just want to say that I LOVE hearing about your grandmother! I think that by the time someone has passed 100 with such a flourish, we should all pay attention to what we can learn from them!! Especially since so many of us are expected to live longer -- and I think the scariest thing is to think about having a long life without the quality of life your grandmother clearly has. And the next time I smell those #$&!!@ tempting Cinnabon rolls, I may think about them a little differently!!!

August 27, 2009 - 8:30am
(reply to Diane Porter)

Go for it! Thanks for your comment! If Grandma Kora can eat those Cinnabon rolls every now and again, so can you! The funny thing is, when I met her at the airport last month when she had a three-hour layover to catch another flight, she had not only the Cinnabon roll, but a bowl of soup AND a brownie! Then, to walk it off, she pushed me around the airport in a wheelchair for a bit just to see other people's reactions! No one called the geriatric abuse hotline, but we did get some stares. We were laughing hysterically, however!

August 27, 2009 - 10:02am
EmpowHER Guest

Rosa, please do forget the sun block at least for the first half an hour out in the sun! Because a) a sun block with a protection factor 15 blocks the production of 99% of vitamin D in the skin! b) there's been several studies showing that the ingredients in sunscreens have estrogenic effects on cultured breast cancer cells (i.e. in lab experiments the breast cancer cells enjoyed the sunscreen). I would say if there are natural sun blocks out there it is a good idea to try finding them.

The amount of vitamin D that the skin metabolizes depends on a number of factors including the latitude, the time of the day, season, skin complexion, age, etc. For example, total body exposure (as in naked) out in the sun (at a 30-40 deg latitude, summer time) for about half an hour results in 10.000 IU (250 microgr) – and this seems to be a natural physiological limit, meaning that by longer exposures the skin won’t produce more vitamin D.

Regarding what should be an optimal daily intake of vitamin D - this is a tough question to answer. I've been looking at a LOT of scientific papers on the subject and the dosage was anywhere btw 1.000 IU/day and 10.000 IU/day. My interest with this vitamin peaked during the past few months in connection to its role in preventing colds, flu, diabetes and cancers. If you would like to read more about what is the current knowledge on vitamin D, I'm happy to share my blog post



August 26, 2009 - 5:16am
(reply to Anonymous)

Nice info--thanks!

August 26, 2009 - 6:19am
EmpowHER Guest

Although of course daily intake of high calcium foodsources such as fish, greens, nuts/seeds, cheese and yoghurt will provide ongoing support for your bone structure, we must not forget that it is during your early years, from conception through to adulthood, that the foundations are laid.
Only when your 25(OH)D status is above 30ng/mL ~80nmol/l can you be sure your body is absorbing, from diet or supplements the full amount of calcium.
Grassrootshealth D Action are a charity promoting Vitamin D3 awareness and as part of a trial to identify the Vitamin D3 level associated with least illness they are offering regular 25(OH)D testing to enable you to monitor your level to ensure it stays around the 55ng/mL 135nmol/l currently associated with least chronic illness. It's a very simple $40 postal test and a link to the result is emailed to you in a few days.
Most people will find that 20~30minutes full body non-burning midday sun exposure keeps levels about right but those who cannot manage this will probably do well with 1000iu/daily for each 25lbs they weight.
Grassrootshealth have an excellent documentation library will many scientific papers to support their recommendations.
Anyone concerned about the amounts I have suggested should read the paper
"Vitamin D and Cancer Mini-Symposium: The Risk of Additional Vitamin D"
by Reinhold Vieth that can be dowloaded from the menu following the "Symposium in Print 2009" tab.

August 26, 2009 - 2:07am

And then, there are those of us who cannot drink milk, so we get a bit of sun (plus, I'm a distance runner - with the telltale sock and skort tan lines). I don't cook with salt; there's an amazing amount of sodium in our foods, already!

Your grandmother is truly amazing and I enjoy your stories about her.

August 25, 2009 - 7:16pm
(reply to alysiak)

Thank you! Glad to hear you are a fellow runner! I get up at 4:30 each morning to hit the pavement, followed by a bike ride. My grandma used to ride her bike every morning before breakfast. Guess she figured the ride would cancel out the calories from McDonald's!

August 26, 2009 - 5:21am
(reply to Ann Butenas)

Oh, no - not the golden arches! lol

Well, I didn't get to eat dinner before our CPR class, last night, so my daughter and I stopped afterwards at a local burger place to pick up a couple of grilled chicken sandwiches. In themselves, they were okay; the onion rings, though, were another matter. I hardly ever have fried food, but I do love onion rings. It's going to take a few miles to burn them off, haha!

August 26, 2009 - 4:19pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.