The Scoop on Vitamin D

Sun shining down through tree branchesVit­a­min D, also called the “Sun­shine Vit­a­min”, because it can be made by the body with the help of sun­light, is a fat-sol­u­ble vit­a­min.  That means it’s  absorbed in fat and can be stored in the body for months.

The Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Der­ma­tol­ogy has found it unsafe to be in the sun with­out pro­tec­tion for any amount of time, there­fore it has rec­om­mend­ed to get vit­a­min D sole­ly through food and sup­ple­ment sources.

Oth­er sources such as the vit­a­min D coun­cil and oth­er health experts believe that some sun expo­sure is an effec­tive and pre­ferred choice for obtain­ing vit­a­min D.

Whether your choice is sup­ple­men­ta­tion or sun­light, it’s impor­tant to cor­rect for vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy.

Vit­a­min D absorbs and main­tain cal­ci­um and phos­pho­rus lev­els which helps build strong bones, it pre­vents frac­tures and boosts immune func­tion. But Vit­a­min D has been also found to be pro­tec­tive in a vari­ety of oth­er ill­ness­es, such as: heart dis­ease, osteo­poro­sis, hyper­ten­sion, some can­cers and dia­betes.

There has been some dis­agree­ments with the rec­om­mend­ed guide­lines of vit­a­min D but the IOM has estab­lished the guide­lines to be as fol­lows:

The Rec­om­mend­ed Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vit­a­min D:

ages 1 -70 yrs old = 600 IU/day

> 70 yrs of age = 800 IU/day

At risk” indi­vid­u­als (see below) should get vit­a­min D lev­els checked by the doc­tor and con­sid­er increas­ing  vit­a­min D intake through food or sup­ple­ments.

At Risk Indi­vid­u­als are:

  • Peo­ple that are over­weight or obese.
  • Peo­ple with dark­er skin tone.
  • Peo­ple who spend most time indoors.
  • Peo­ple who use sun­screen dai­ly.
  • Peo­ple who live in areas with lit­tle sun­light (north­ern hemi­sphere).
  • Peo­ple diag­nosed with osteo­poro­sis.
  • Peo­ple who suf­fer from mal­ab­sorp­tion syn­drome or inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease.
  • Peo­ple on seizure med­ica­tion.

Oth­er insti­tu­tions, such as Har­vard School of Pub­lic, has found these rec­om­men­da­tions to be too con­ser­v­a­tive and has found that the evi­dence shows opti­mal intake to be, 800‑1000 IU/per day.  In addi­tion, indi­vid­u­als with dark­er skin, lit­tle expo­sure to sun­light or peo­ple liv­ing in the north­ern US dur­ing win­ter sea­son may even need 2000 IU/per day, but before you increase your vit­a­min D intake to these high­er lev­els have your doc­tor check your blood lev­els first.

Good Food Sources of Vit­a­min D:

There are only a few foods that nat­u­ral­ly con­tain vit­a­min D, such as cer­tain types of fish, but there are many for­ti­fied foods that can also pro­vide you with the rec­om­mend­ed amounts of vit­a­min D, such as dairy and break­fast cere­als.  Here are some food choic­es with their respec­tive vit­a­min D lev­els:

Cod liv­er oil (1360 IU’s per serv­ing) Salmon (447 IU), mack­er­el (388 IU), tuna (154 IU), milk (115–124 IU), Orange Juice (100 IU), yogurt (80 IU), Sar­dines (46 IU), Egg (41 IU) Ready to eat Cere­al ( 40 IU),


Since only few foods con­tain vit­a­min D you may have to sup­ple­ment your diet with sup­ple­ments. Here is what you should know:

There are two forms of vit­a­min D, vit­a­min D2 or ergo­cal­cif­er­ol, is a plant-based form and vit­a­min D3 ‚or chole­cal­cif­er­ol, is an ani­mal-based form. If you are a strict veg­an ergo­cal­cif­er­ol, or vit­a­min D2, would be your best choice.  Every­one else has a choice between either one.  Some stud­ies have found chole­cal­cif­er­ol to be more effec­tive in rais­ing vit­a­min D lev­els, and chem­i­cal­ly it looks exact­ly like the vit­a­min D your body pro­duces, but oth­er stud­ies have found them to be equal­ly effec­tive. Until more stud­ies find more con­clu­sive evi­dence, the choice is yours.



Insti­tute of Med­i­cine. Dietary Ref­er­ence Intakes for Cal­ci­um and Vit­a­min D. Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Acad­e­mies Press, 2010.

U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Agri­cul­tur­al Research Service.USDA Nutri­ent Data­base for Stan­dard Ref­er­ence, Release 23, 2011.

Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Der­ma­tol­ogy. Posi­tion state­ment on vit­a­min D. Novem­ber 14, 2009.

Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health. The Nutri­tion Source: Vit­a­min D and Health. Accessed, April 11, 2011.






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