Recently several UK radio stations invited me to tell them about recent research that showed despite knowing the many benefits of Vitamin D the older generation aren't taking their daily dose. According to NICE, many of us in our 60s and 70s are lacking in Vitamin D and it would seem we've have forgotten about a simple product with so many benefits that can keep us feeling younger for longer!
Having been a wartime baby I well remember the compulsory orange juice and cod liver oil given to me at the start of every day by my dear Mother. Back then cod liver oil, full of Vitamin D was administered on a spoon in liquid form. I recall it left a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth but I was reassured by my Mum that with simple goodness in every drop it would do me good - and more importantly would keep my young bones strong. Well old habits die hard and as an adult over many intervening years I continued with my daily morning dose of cod liver oil, albeit in capsule form which as a grown up I preferred.
I continued to be an avid user of cod liver oil, but over the years it had fallen out of my daily routine for some reason but I knew I could naturally get my Recommended Daily Dose of vitamin D from the summer sunshine. Your body uses sunshine during the summer months to manufacture the vital vitamin in your skin. For adults 10 minutes of sun exposure to the face and arms without sunscreen once or twice a day, every day in the UK between May and September will increase vitamin D and help to keep bones healthy. But that is only if you are lucky enough to see the sun in the UK! So instead I foolishly sunbathed excessively on Continental holidays for many years back in the 60s, 70s, 80's and 90's but without adequate sun protection! That was until some 10 years ago when I had a serious health scare as a result of sunbathing the 40 years previously. I was diagnosed with skin cancer and as a consequence I have actively avoided the sun ever since. But sadly I didn't compensate for the decrease in vitamin D by boosting my diet, and because I had avoided the sun I had depleted levels of vitamin D and a bone scan indicated I had osteopenia.
With osteopenia bone mineral density is lower than normal and it affects many people as they age. However the bone mineral density is not low enough to be considered osteoporosis and not everyone with osteopenia will develop osteoporosis. Osteopenia refers to early signs of bone loss that could develop into osteoporosis, but luckily there are lifestyles changes that one can make to ensure bones don't deteriorate further. These include eating a healthy diet and doing regular weight bearing exercises. Cutting down on alcohol and caffeine and quitting smoking are also recommended.
My consultant said I needed to boost my intake of vitamin D and having been diagnosed with osteopenia I made the connection, did my research, and found that a daily dose of cod liver oil could combat the deficiency. Since resuming the habit of taking it my levels of vitamin D have returned to normal. I can't say for sure it's down to the cod liver oil, but it is the only significant change I've made to my diet. Sensibly I still avoid direct sunshine but my daily dose of cod liver oil ensures my vitamin D and is now, at 76 years of age, an integral part of my regime again alongside a healthy, varied diet which includes plenty of calcium rich foods.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium so my cod liver oil capsule full of vitamin D works alongside to naturally keep my bones strong and helps protect me from developing the bone thinning disease osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means "porous bones" and is often referred to as the fragile bone disease where bones become vulnerable to fracture. Thin, fragile bones in themselves are not painful but the broken bones that can result from a fall often cause fracture, pain and other problems. Osteoporosis will affect 1 woman in 3 of my age, and although the disease is more common in women, one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly due to osteoporosis.
Growing older isn't a disease - it happens to us all so we need to look after our health. Simple things in life can help to replenish your natural resources as you age and it's also essential to keep active. I like to think my cod liver oil naturally "oils my joints" helping to keep me mobile and physically independent and I know for a fact that simple brisk walking is whole body exercise and weight bearing too. It's proven that weight bearing activities combined with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D are essential to maintain strong bones! Bone health is instrumental to our overall health, quality of life and longevity and it's so true what they say... it's the simple things in life that keep us feeling younger for longer!