Having adequate blood levels of vitamin D can help with many of the health challenges of menopause like cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.
Nutrition for Optimal Wellness | Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS | The onset of menopause comes with a number of health challenges for women. These include increased risks for osteoporosis (affecting 44 million Americans at a cost of $19 billion per year (1)), breast cancer (a significant contributor to cancer $219 billion each year (2)), colorectal cancer (2nd-leading cancer cause of death (3)), and cardiovascular disease ($503 billion cost in 2010 (4)).
Fortunately, a new study (5) has shown that having adequate blood levels of vitamin D can help with many of these health challenges. The current recommendations by the National Institute of Health is to have vitamin D blood levels above 50 nanomoles/milliter (20 nanograms/Liter) and for women older than 51 years of age to take between 600 and 800 IU per day of vitamin D (6).
Vitamin D's health benefits in postmenopausal women include:
Increased bone strength and reduced risk for falls -- A 2009 study in patients with an average age of 65 years or older receiving 700-1000 IU/day of vitamin D had a 19% reduction in the risk of falls. When vitamin D blood levels reached at least 60 nmol/L (24 ng/mL) there was a 23% reduced risk of falling (7).
Reduced breast and colorectal cancer risks -- Following up on research showing vitamin D's anti-cancer properties (8,9), a 2011 study showed that every 10 ng/mL (25 nmol/L) increase vitamin D blood levels significantly lowered the risk for colorectal and breast cancer (10). These results led the researchers to comment that "it seems [vitamin D blood levels] display a consistent inverse relationship with [breast and colorectal] cancer."
Reduced cardiovascular disease risk - Another 2011 study showed every 16 ng/mL (40 nmol/L) increase in serum 25(OH)D levels was "significantly associated with reduced blood pressure levels" (11).
Physical Activity -- A 2011 study showed "a considerable" benefit of vitamin D supplementation in…hip muscle strength in subjects with [vitamin D blood levels] <25 nmol/L (10 ng/mL) (12), leading the researchers to comment that " vitamin D may be involved in maintaining muscle strength."
Fortunately, the researchers' recommendations to get enough vitamin D are relatively simple, "In healthy postmenopausal women, adequate [blood levels] can be achieved through sun exposure (15 minutes per day, 3–4 times a week) or vitamin D supplementation with 800–1000 IU/day." For women with low vitamin D blood levels, the supplemented doses should range from 4000 to 10,000 IU/day "to achieve adequate levels."
For women with morbid obesity (pre and post gastrointestinal bypass surgery), problems with absorption or liver or kidney problems, the researchers recommend "specific tailored doses of vitamin D supplements." Finally, women with vitamin D deficiency related to osteoporosis "should receive adequate amounts of vitamin D (800–1200 IU/day if there are no associated risk factors for low serum vitamin D levels)."
Reference:1. "Osteoporosis Basics" - http://www.nof.org/aboutosteoporosis/bonebasics/whybonehealth