Background: Vitamin D and calcium are important dietary compounds that affect bone mass, even if other minerals (potassium, zinc, etc.) and vitamins (A, C and K) are also involved. Vitamin D and certain minerals, in fact, play an important role in calcium homeostasis and calcium absorption. Hip fracture incidence is higher in Europe and the United States, where calcium is frequently included in the human diet; while the occurrence of these fractures is lower in developing countries, where diets are often poor in calcium. This condition is named the “calcium paradox”, and may be partially explained by phosphate toxicity, which can negatively affect mineral metabolism. It is important to maintain correct dietary calcium-phosphate balance in order to have a healthy life, reducing the risk of osteoporotic fractures in older people. Vitamin D can also act as a hormone; vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is derived from the UV-B radiation of ergosterol, the natural vitamin D precursor detected in plants, fungi, and invertebrates. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by sunlight exposure from 7-dehydrocholesterol, a precursor of cholesterol that can also act as provitamin D3. Dietary intake of vitamin D3 is essential when the skin is exposed for short periods to ultraviolet B light (UV-B), a category of invisible light rays such as UV-A and UV-C. This can be considered the usual situation in northern latitudes during the winter season, or the typical lifestyle for older people and/or for people with very white delicate skin. The actual recommended daily intake of dietary vitamin D is strictly correlated with age, ranging from 5 μg for infants, children, teenagers, and adults—including pregnant and lactating women—to 15 μg for people over 65 years.
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