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home : columns : ask the doctors November 22, 2019

7/24/2019 7:46:00 AM
Body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D decreases with age

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the first column of high summer. You've kept our inbox full, so we'll dive right in.

-- A recent column about vitamin D prompted a reader to ask this follow-up question: "It is my understanding -- via a doctor -- that when you reach 65 to 70, the body's ability to make vitamin D begins to decrease. Is this true?"

Yes, the doctor you spoke to is correct. As we age, we experience a decrease in the ability to synthesize vitamin D. This, along with less time in the sun, and a drop in dietary intake, can lead to deficiency. Since this vitamin plays a role in both physical and mental well-being, it's important to monitor vitamin D levels in the elderly. This can be done via a blood test, and if a deficiency is found, it can be addressed through diet and supplements.

-- We've fielded a few questions about air fryers, which are the countertop appliance of the moment. They cook using a fan that circulates super-heated air and, with just a tablespoon or so of oil, crisp food in the same (well, similar) way that deep-frying does. A reader from Tulsa, Oklahoma, wondered whether this sounds too good to be true and asks, "Are there any negatives to eating foods that have been cooked in an air fryer?"

The good news for air fryer fans is that foods cooked in this manner can be up to 70% lower in calories than those cooked via traditional deep-frying. The devices may also decrease the presence of potentially dangerous compounds like acrylamide, which are created during the deep-frying process. However, high-heat cooking of any kind has been associated with the formation of other potentially dangerous compounds. And remember, air-fried foods are only as healthy as the ingredients you're starting with.

-- Our column about an elderly man wanting to get a dog continues to get a lot of thoughtful replies, such as this one from a reader in Fresno, California: "You left out two important things -- assessing the elderly person's physical, mental and financial capabilities, and the major differences in the care needed by different breeds. A mature dog with no major physical or emotional problems and that does not need much grooming or running is a very different commitment than a puppy."

-- We recently wrote about advance directives for dementia, in which an individual describes the medical interventions that he or she doesn't want as the condition progresses. A reader in Terre Haute, Indiana, adds that it's important to make sure that these directives are accompanied by the specific legal documents required by the laws of their particular state.

We thank you, as always, for your interest in this column. Just a reminder -- we can't answer specific questions about medications, make a diagnosis or offer a second opinion. Also, space limitations mean that sometimes answers aren't as in-depth as some readers would like. We've noticed that our readers aren't shy about adding to, arguing with or correcting our work, and we are always happy to revisit previous topics here in our monthly conversations.

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