Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and porous. Vitamin D may help with osteoporosis because it plays a role in bone growth and remodeling.

The human body continually breaks down old bone and replaces it. Osteoporosis occurs when the body breaks down more bone than it replaces. This causes a person’s bones to become weaker and less dense.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in maintaining bone strength. Getting enough daily vitamin D may help reduce the risk of complications of osteoporosis, such as fractures.

This article discusses the benefits of vitamin D for people with osteoporosis, sources of vitamin D, and more.

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Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of strong bones. If a person does not have enough vitamin D, their bones can become:

  • thin
  • brittle
  • atypically shaped

A vitamin D deficiency can cause a person to develop osteoporosis or make the condition worse in those who have it.

If a person with osteoporosis regularly obtains adequate amounts of vitamin D, it can help promote calcium absorption, which is essential for good bone health.

A 2022 analysis of 32 studies found that vitamin D supplementation with a daily dose of 800–1,000 international units (IU) was associated with a lower risk of fractures.

Additionally, a 2019 clinical trial involving 400 people investigated the impact of vitamin D on osteoporosis. Participants in the intervention group received a treatment of vitamin D supplements for 8 weeks. Participants in the control group did not receive this treatment.

At the end of the study, the prevalence of osteoporosis in the intervention group was significantly lower than in the control group. The study stated that treatment with vitamin D can improve bone density indices.

Learn more about the benefits of vitamin D.

Below are the general recommended daily amounts of vitamin D.

AgeRecommended daily amount
0–12 months400 IU/10 micrograms (mcg)
1–18 years600 IU/15 mcg
19–70 years600 IU/15 mcg
71 years and older800 IU/20 mcg

The recommended daily amount for pregnant or nursing people is 600 IU/15 mcg.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) recommends that people aged 60 years and over take a supplemental vitamin D dose of 800–1,000 IU daily to benefit bone health. It adds that it may be best for people with osteoporosis to take combined calcium and vitamin D supplements to help maximize the effect of osteoporosis treatment.

People get 70–80% of their vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Only a limited number of foods contain vitamin D.

The flesh of fatty fish and fish liver oils are among the best sources of dietary vitamin D. These fish include:

Mushrooms are another good source of vitamin D. Some sellers treat mushrooms with UV light to increase their vitamin D levels.

Other foods that contain smaller amounts of vitamin D include:

Learn more about dietary sources of vitamin D.

A person can take vitamin D supplements to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. In people with the condition, these can help strengthen their bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

One 2020 study analyzed the effects of combined calcium and vitamin D supplements for osteoporosis after menopause.

It concluded that fortified dairy products containing added calcium and vitamin D could positively affect bone mineral density. The authors added that combined calcium and vitamin D supplementation could help prevent osteoporosis fractures.

Cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of bone fractures. If a person with osteoporosis smokes, it is best that they stop to help with their condition.

Other steps a person can take to help with osteoporosis include:

  • reducing consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and salt
  • getting enough regular physical activity
  • maintaining a moderate weight

Medical professionals sometimes refer to osteoporosis as a “silent” disease. This is because there are often no symptoms until a person breaks a bone.

Bones that osteoporosis affects can often become so fragile that fractures can spontaneously occur. In some cases, osteoporosis can weaken bones to the point that they fracture due to:

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they experience a fracture. This may be a sign that they have developed osteoporosis.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about osteoporosis and vitamin D.

Is vitamin D2 or D3 better for osteoporosis?

Dietary supplements can contain vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. While both are good for bone health, vitamin D3 can increase a person’s vitamin D levels to a greater extent and maintain higher levels longer than vitamin D2.

This may mean that vitamin D3 is more effective for people with osteoporosis. However, more studies are required to determine if this is true.

Learn more about vitamins D2 and D3.

Is osteoporosis due to a lack of vitamin D?

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a person to develop osteoporosis or make a person’s osteoporosis symptoms worse.

A vitamin D deficiency can also increase a person’s risk of fractures.

Is too much vitamin D bad for osteoporosis?

Ingesting too much vitamin D can cause people to develop a condition called hypercalcemia. It can cause several symptoms, including bone complications. These complications can lead to a person developing osteoporosis.

If a person already has osteoporosis, hypercalcemia can worsen their condition.

Learn more about getting too much vitamin D.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and porous. This can increase a person’s risk of fractures.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in maintaining bone strength. People with osteoporosis can take vitamin D supplements or eat a diet high in vitamin D to help with their condition. Foods high in vitamin D include the flesh of fatty fish, fish liver oils, and mushrooms.

A person can also help improve their bone health by stopping smoking, reducing their caffeine and alcohol intake, and getting more regular physical activity, if applicable.