Benefits of Vitamin D for Women in Menopause

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for women as they approach or reach menopause, with research supporting the vitamin's role in preventing many common age-related diseases and conditions. Osteoporosis (low bone mass), diabetes, cancer, and weight gain are among them.

You may be aware of vitamin D as a helper for absorbing calcium and building bones, but it is involved in many processes that protect your health. Ensuring adequate levels of vitamin D in your diet, or by taking supplements, can help to deliver its benefits.

This article explains how vitamin D works in the body and its proven health benefits, as well as those that continue to be under study. It offers information about ways to boost your own vitamin D levels.

Woman relaxing on allotment
Lilly Roadstones / Getty Images

Why Vitamin D?

You may think of vitamin D as you do other vitamins such as vitamin C or the B vitamins. Yet vitamin D is unique in that it functions more like a hormone than a vitamin.

As with other hormones such as insulin and thyroid hormone, a hormonal deficiency can lead to a multitude of seemingly unrelated problems involving the body's endocrine system.

Listed below are a few of the conditions that vitamin D may help treat or prevent.


Since vitamin D is critical for your body to be able to use calcium and build bone properly, women who are over 40 or who have risk factors for osteoporosis should be sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D.

The combination of calcium and vitamin D are a frontline prevention and treatment for maintaining bone strength.


Studies showing an association between vitamin D and the prevention of cancer are promising, especially for specific cancers. They include:

Of these, perhaps the strongest support for an adequate vitamin D level is with colon cancer. Research suggests that Vitamin D not only reduces the risk of colon cancer but limits malignant growth in cancers already present.

With Vitamin D and skin cancer, there appear to be trade-offs because sunscreen protection that limits skin cancers also reduces sunlight exposure that's needed for the body to absorb vitamin D.Further, the risk of more serious melanoma skin cancers is increased in those who have vitamin D deficiencies related to their reduced sunlight exposure.

Non-melanoma types of skin cancers have nearly a 99% survival rate. The protective effects of sunblock remain true and many people now benefit from its use.Still, some experts question the overall value of preventing survivable cancers at the expense of contributing to vitamin D deficiencies with potentially greater health impacts.

Vitamin D and Cancer Treatment

Not only may vitamin D deficiency lead to an increased risk of cancer, but some studies suggest that cancer treatments may not work as well in people who have a vitamin D deficiency. For example, the medication rituximab used for blood-related cancers is less effective in those with low vitamin D levels.

Obesity and Weight Gain

For some reason, women who are overweight tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. It’s not known whether the low levels contribute to obesity or whether obesity lowers the levels, but the association exists.

Because obesity often occurs within the context of a lack of vitamin D, it is often seen in people who also are diagnosed with osteoporosis. Studies have yet to demonstrate exactly why obesity, vitamin D, and bone health may be related.

Research and Vitamin D Benefits

The benefits of Vitamin D have been studied for a number of other health conditions. However, the evidence for these benefits remains inconclusive.


"Studies show that vitamin D may be beneficial for improving symptoms of depression in people with significant depression as well as those with vitamin D deficiency."

If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and notice your mood being low during the winter season, you may want to boost your vitamin D intake during those darker months.


Adequate levels of vitamin D seem to have a strong association with your body’s ability to use insulin. Many studies have been done which have found that a low level of vitamin D results in a decrease in the release of insulin in the body, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin D supplementation might help to reduce blood sugars in some people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. It's not yet clear if it can help prevent diabetes. More studies are needed in this area.

Several studies are currently in progress looking at the possible causal relationship between low vitamin D levels and diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease

When estrogen starts to decline, women begin to have the same risks for heart disease as men. While vitamin D deficiency does seem to be associated with cardiovascular disease, it’s not clear why this is so.

Most studies have failed to connect supplementing with vitamin D to the improvement of cardiovascular risks.

If you are concerned about heart disease, talk to your healthcare provider about what the latest research is telling us with regard to vitamin D and cardiovascular disease.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Being vitamin D deficient may take a toll on your heart and blood vessels. Since high blood pressure is a symptom that your cardiovascular system is at risk, anything that lowers that risk may be protective of your heart.

Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can lower blood pressure readings for people with hypertension. Yet keep in mind that everyone is different.

For example, some people should not take calcium supplements. Those who have a history of kidney stones should talk to their healthcare provider before taking any of these preparations.

Other Health Conditions

Vitamin D has been studied for its role in treating and preventing other conditions. These conditions include:

Researchers are just beginning to understand how widespread the effects of vitamin D are in the body and how integral it is to healthy functioning.

Vitamin D Testing

A vitamin D deficiency is very common, although severe deficiencies are relatively rare in the United States and occur in just 5.9% of the population.Symptoms that may occur include:

  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

A vitamin D blood test is available if you have concerns. Your healthcare provider can complete the test and discuss the results with you.

How to Increase or Maintain Your Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D can be obtained through your diet, exposure to sunlight, or through a supplement.

Dietary vitamin D

Vitamin D is one vitamin that can be difficult to obtain in a healthy diet. Nutrition guidelines recommend a daily intake of 200 to 800 international units (IUs) depending on your age.

Milk and fish are good sources, but unlike most other vitamins, it's hard for the average person to get enough vitamin D in a healthy diet.


Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D but is dependent on your latitude, as well as your use of sunscreen. On the other hand, spending time outside without sunscreen on the arms, legs, abdomen and back is a safe way to get some vitamin D.

One study from the UK found that White people living at this northern latitude needed just nine minutes of noon-hour exposure on their arms and legs each day to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D Supplements

Many people choose to take a vitamin D supplement but talk to your healthcare provider first. They may recommend that you get a vitamin D test before starting a supplement.

If your healthcare provider believes you could benefit from a supplement, talk to them about the best dose to take. Since the vitamin is fat soluble, it is best absorbed when taken with a meal in which at least some fat is present.

The type of vitamin D supplement you use can be important. Many healthcare providers recommend using vitamin D3 but talk to your healthcare provider.

A 2016 review in the journal Dermatoendocrinology states that insufficient sun exposure is an emerging health problem due to lack of vitamin D and other reasons. The authors suggest the message of sun avoidance has to be changed to allow for sun exposure that's sufficient to absorb an adequate amount of vitamin D.

Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D?

If you are healthy and your kidneys are functioning well, it is difficult to get too much vitamin D through dietary sources and sun exposure. You may get too much vitamin D, however, if you choose to take a supplement, especially a very high dose supplement.

One of the side effects that may occur with too much vitamin D is painful kidney stones. Yet again, if you ask your healthcare provider to check your vitamin D level and make a recommendation of a supplement dose (vitamin D3) if needed, it's usually possible to avoid this potential risk.


Vitamin D plays a key role in maintaining your health. Its benefits in preventing conditions like osteoporosis are well-documented while other effects remain under study.

These potential effects of vitamin D may include reducing colon cancer risk, managing diabetes, and helping people with high blood pressure to decrease their levels. Vitamin D also is under study to learn how it might help with asthma, celiac disease, and other conditions.

You can get more vitamin D through the foods you eat, supplements, and exposure to sunlight. Ask your healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements and whether you should take a vitamin D test to check your existing levels first.

24 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. Journal of Pharmacology Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-26. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

  2. Endocrine Web. Low Thyroid Hormone Raises Risk for Diabetes 2. Published January, 2019.

  3. Rachdaoui N. Insulin: the friend and the foe in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020;21(5):1770. doi. 10.3390/ijms21051770.

  4. Gallagher JC. Vitamin d and aging. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America. 2013;42(2):319-332. doi. 10.1016/j.ecl.2013.02.004.

  5. Endocrine Web. The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D in Bone Health. Published April, 2017.

  6. National Cancer Institute. Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention.

  7. American Cancer Society. Vitamin D Levels Linked to Lower Colorectal Cancer.

  8. Neale RE, Khan SR, Lucas RM, Waterhouse M, Whiteman DC, Olsen CM. The effect of sunscreen on vitamin D: a review. British Journal of Dermatology. 2019;181(5):907-915. doi. 10.1111/bjd.17980.

  9. Timerman D, McEnery-Stonelake M, Joyce CJ, et al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a worse prognosis in metastatic melanomaOncotarget. 2017;8(4):6873-6882. doi.  10.18632/oncotarget.14316.

  10. Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics. Published January, 2021.

  11. Hohaus S, Tisi MC, Bellesi S, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and supplementation in patients with aggressive B-cell lymphomas treated with immunochemotherapy. Cancer Med. 2018;7(1):270-281. doi:10.1002/cam4.1166

  12. Vanlint S. Vitamin D and obesity. Nutrients. 2013;5(3):949-56. doi:10.3390/nu5030949

  13. Hou J, He C, He W, Luo X, Li C. Obesity and bone health: a complex linkFront Cell Dev Biol. 2020;8:600181. doi:10.3389/fcell.2020.600181

  14. Spedding S. Vitamin D and depression; a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws. Nutrients. 2014 April 11;6(4):1501-18 doi:10.3390/nu6041501

  15. Stanak M, Strohmaier C. Ethics analysis of light and vitamin D therapies for seasonal affective disorder. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 2020;36(6):549-559. doi. 10.1017/S0266462320000884.

  16. Al-shoumer KA, Al-essa TM. Is there a relationship between vitamin D with insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus?. World Journal of Diabetes. 2015;6(8):1057-64. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i8.1057

  17. Mehta V, Agarwal S. Does Vitamin D Deficiency Lead to Hypertension?. Cureus. 2017;9(2):e1038. doi:10.7759/cureus.1038

  18. Sorensen MD. Calcium intake and urinary stone disease. Translational Androlpgy and Urology. 2014;3(3):235-240. PMID. 26816771.

  19. Amrein K, Scherkl M, Hoffmann M, Neuwersch-Sommeregger S, Köstenberger M, Tmava Berisha A, et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020 Nov;74(11):1498-1513. doi:10.1038/s41430-020-0558-y.

  20. The National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D.

  21. Webb AR, Kazantzidis A, Kift RC, Farrar MD, Wilkinson J, Rhodes LE. Meeting Vitamin D Requirements in White Caucasians at UK Latitudes: Providing a Choice. Nutrients. 2018 Apr 17;10(4):497. doi:10.3390/nu10040497

  22. National Institutes for Health. Vitamin D Fact Sheet.

  23. Hoel, D., Berwick, M., de Gruijl, R., and M. Holick. The Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure 2016. Dermatoendocrinology. 2016. 8(1):e1248325.

  24. Harvard Health Publishing. Taking too much vitamin D can cloud its benefits and create health risks. Published December, 2019.

Additional Reading

By Kate Bracy, RN, NP
Kate Bracy, RN, MS, NP, is a registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner who specializes in women's health and family planning.