Vitamin D Benefits, deficiency, sources, dosage Health Professional Fact 2022
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, and many other biological effects. In humans, the most important compounds in this group are vitamin D₃ and vitamin D₂.
- Use: Rickets, osteoporosis, vitamin D deficiency
- Kind of light: UVB solius.com
- Synonyms: Calciferols
Vitamin D helps children build strong bones and prevent bone diseases such as rickets. Helps adults avoid conditions like osteoporosis that weaken bones and can cause them to break. … People can get vitamin D from their diet, from supplements, and from the sun. Consumer Fact Sheet Find more fact sheets on dietary supplement ingredients.
Table of Contents
- What is vitamin D, and what is it for?
- How much vitamin D do I need?
- What foods contain vitamin D?
- Does sunlight provide vitamin D?
- What types of vitamin D dietary supplements can I get?
- Do I get enough vitamin D?
- What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin D?
- What are some of the health effects of vitamin D?
- Can vitamin D be harmful?
- Does vitamin D interact with medications or other dietary supplements?
- Vitamin D and healthy eating
- Where can I find more information on nutrition and nutritional supplements?
- Disclaimer Notice
What is vitamin D, and what is it for?
Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient for health. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main substances needed for strong bones. Along with calcium, vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones thinner, weaker, and more prone to fractures. In addition, the body lacks vitamin D for other functions. Muscles need it for movement, and nerves need it to transmit messages between the brain and other body parts. Vitamin D is essential for the immune system to fight bacteria and viruses that attack it.
How much vitamin D do I need?
The amount of vitamin D a person needs per day will depend on their age. Below are the recommended average daily amounts in micrograms (mcg) and international units (I.U.):
- Stage of life recommended amount
- Babies up to 12 months 10mcg (400IU)
- Children from 1 to 13 years 15mcg (600IU)
- Adolescents from 14 to 18 years old 15mcg (600IU)
- Adults 19 to 70 years old 15mcg (600IU)
- Adults over 71 years 20mcg (800IU)
- Pregnant or lactating women and adolescents 15mcg (600IU)
What foods contain vitamin D?
Very few foods contain this vitamin naturally. Foods fortified with vitamin D provide the majority of this vitamin in people’s diets in the United States. Read the product label to determine how much vitamin D is in a food or drink.
- Nearly all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with about three mcg (120 IU) of vitamin D per cup, as are many plant-based alternatives, such as soy milk, almond milk, and milk. Oat milk, However, foods made with milk, such as cheeses and ice cream, are often not fortified.
- Also, many breakfast bowls of cereal and some brands of orange juice, yogurts, margarine, and other products contain added vitamin D.
- Fatty fish, such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel, as well as fish liver oils, are among the best natural sources of vitamin D.
- Beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese contain small amounts of vitamin D.
- Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. Some mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light to increase their vitamin D content.
Does sunlight provide vitamin D?
The body produces vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to the sun. Most people get at least some vitamin D this way. However, clouds, polluted fog (smog), older age, and dark skin color reduce the amount of vitamin D produced by the skin. Likewise, skin exposed to sunlight through a window does not have vitamin D.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause skin cancer, so limiting your exposure time is essential. Although sunscreens limit vitamin D production, health experts recommend using those that offer a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher if you’re going to be out in the sun for more than a few minutes.
What types of vitamin D dietary supplements can I get?
Vitamin D is found in multivitamin and multimineral supplements. It is also available as dietary supplements that contain only vitamin D or vitamin D combined with some other nutrients. The two forms of vitamin D available in supplements are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both increase vitamin D concentration in the blood, although D3 may raise it higher and longer than D2. Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it is better absorbed when taken with a meal or snack that contains some fat.
Do I get enough vitamin D?
Since our sources of vitamin D are food, the sun, and dietary supplements, one way to tell if we’re getting enough vitamin D is to have a blood test that measures the concentration of this vitamin. A form of vitamin D called 25-hydroxyvitamin D is measured in nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) or nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in the blood. One nmol/L is equivalent to 0.4 ng/mL.
- Levels of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) or higher are sufficient for most people to maintain bone and general health.
- Levels below 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL) are too low and could weaken bones and impair health.
- Levels above 125 nmol/L (50 ng/mL) are too high and could cause health problems.
In the United States, most people have adequate vitamin D levels in their blood. However, nearly one in four people have vitamin D blood levels that are too low or insufficient for bone health and general health.
Some people have a more challenging time getting enough vitamin D than others:
- Infants. Breast milk alone does not provide enough vitamin D. Infants should be supplemented with ten mcg (400 IU) of vitamin D per day.
- Older adults. With age, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases when exposed to sunlight.
- People rarely expose their skin to the sun because they don’t go outside or keep their bodies and heads covered. Sunscreens also limit the amount of vitamin D produced by the skin.
- Dark-skinned people. The darker your skin, the less vitamin D you will produce when exposed to sunlight.
- People with disorders that limit fat absorption, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis. It is because ingested vitamin D is absorbed in the intestine and fats. Therefore, if the body has problems absorbing fats, it will also have problems absorbing vitamin D.
- People who are obese or who have had gastric bypass surgery. These people usually need more vitamin D than others.
What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin D?
In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, making bones soft, weak, distorted, and painful. In adolescents and adults, vitamin D deficiency causes osteomalacia, a disorder that causes bone pain and muscle weakness.
What are some of the health effects of vitamin D?
Scientists study vitamin D to understand better how it influences health. Here are some examples of the results of these investigations:
Bone Health and Osteoporosis
Long-term vitamin D and calcium deficiency cause bones to become brittle and break more easily. This disease is called osteoporosis. Millions of older men and women have this disease or are at risk of developing it. Muscles are also crucial for bone health because they help maintain balance and prevent falls. Vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle weakness and pain.
Getting the recommended amounts of vitamin D and calcium through food (and supplements, if needed) helps maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D and calcium supplements slightly increase bone strength in older adults, although it is not sure if they reduce the risk of falls or fractures.
Vitamin D does not appear to reduce the breast, colon, rectum, or lung cancer risk. It is unknown whether vitamin D affects the risk of prostate cancer or the probability of surviving this disease. Very high levels of vitamin D in the blood may even increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Clinical trials indicate that while vitamin D supplementation (with or without calcium) does not affect cancer risk, it may slightly reduce the risk of death from this disease. More research is needed to determine the role of vitamin D in preventing cancer and cancer-related mortality.
Vitamin D is essential for the health of the heart and blood vessels and maintaining normal blood pressure. Some studies indicate that vitamin D supplements may reduce blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, two of the main risk factors for heart disease. Other studies show no benefit. Overweight or obese people who take vitamin D in doses greater than 20 mcg (800 IU) per day, in addition to calcium, may even experience increased blood pressure. In general, clinical trials have shown that vitamin D supplementation does not reduce the risk of heart disease or death from heart disease, even when blood levels of this vitamin are low.
Vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. Some studies have found links between low vitamin D levels in the blood and an increased risk of depression. However, several clinical trials have shown that taking vitamin D supplements does not prevent or relieve symptoms of depression.
People who live near the equator get more exposure to the sun and have higher levels of vitamin D. They also rarely develop multiple sclerosis (M.S.). This disease affects the nerves that carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Many studies indicate a link between low vitamin D levels in the blood and the risk of multiple sclerosis. However, scientists have not studied whether vitamin D supplements can prevent this disease. Several clinical trials of people with multiple sclerosis have shown that taking vitamin D supplements does not prevent symptoms from getting worse or coming back.
Type 2 diabetes
Vitamin D helps the body control blood sugar levels. However, several clinical trials of people with and without diabetes have shown that vitamin D supplementation does not improve blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, or hemoglobin A1c levels (the average blood sugar level in the previous three months). Other studies show that vitamin D supplements do not prevent most people with prediabetes from developing diabetes.
Taking vitamin D supplements or eating foods rich in vitamin D does not help you lose weight.
Can vitamin D be harmful?
Yes, excessive consumption of vitamin D can be harmful. Too high vitamin D concentrations in the blood (above 375 nmol/L or 150 ng/mL) can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, confusion, pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, excessive urination and thirst, and kidney stones. Extremely high vitamin D concentrations can cause actual failure, arrhythmia, and even death. Elevated vitamin D levels are almost always due to consuming excessive dietary supplements. You will never get too much vitamin D from the sun because your skin limits how much of this vitamin you can make.
The following are the maximum daily limits for vitamin D in micrograms (mcg) and international units (I.U.):
- maximum limit
- Babies up to 6 months 25 mcg (1,000 IU)
- Babies from 7 to 12 months 38 mcg (1,500 IU)
- Children from 1 to 3 years 63 mcg (2,500 IU)
- Children from 4 to 8 years old 75 mcg (3,000 IU)
- Children from 9 to 18 years old 100 mcg (4,000 IU)
- Adults over 19 years old 100 mcg (4,000 IU)
- Pregnant and lactating women and adolescents 100 mcg (4,000 IU)
Does vitamin D interact with medications or other dietary supplements?
Yes. Vitamin D supplements can interact with certain medications. For example:
- Orlistat (Xenical® and alli®) is a weight loss medication. It can reduce the amount of vitamin D that the body absorbs from food and supplements.
- Cholesterol-lowering statins may be less effective if high-dose vitamin D supplements are taken. These medications include atorvastatin (Lipitor®), lovastatin (Altoprev® and Mevacor®), and simvastatin (FloLipid® and Zocor®).
- Steroids such as prednisone (Deltasone®, Rayos®, and Sterapred®) can lower vitamin D levels in the blood.
- Thiazide diuretics (such as Hygroton®, Lozol®, and Microzide®) can cause too much calcium in the blood if vitamin D supplements are taken.
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, and other health professionals about the prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements you take. They will tell you if dietary supplements could interact with your medicines or if the medication you take could interfere with the way your body absorbs or uses other nutrients.
Vitamin D and healthy eating
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the Federal Government, people should get most of their nutrients from the foods and beverages they consume. Food contains vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, and other beneficial components for health. In some cases, the consumption of fortified foods and nutritional supplements may provide nutrients that might not otherwise be consumed in the minimum recommended amounts (for example, during certain life stages, such as pregnancy). See the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutritional guide, MyPlate, for more information about maintaining a healthy diet.
Where can I find more information on nutrition and dietary supplements?
For more information in Spanish and English, please visit the Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH) page.
The information presented in this fact sheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is in no way a substitute for the advice of a physician. We recommend that you consult your healthcare professionals (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) if you have any concerns or questions about the use of dietary supplements and what might be better for your overall health. Any mention in this publication of a specific product or service, or recommendation of a professional organization or society, does not represent endorsement by ODS of that product, service, or expert advice.
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What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs for building and maintaining healthy bones. That’s because your body can only absorb calcium, the primary component of bone, when vitamin D is present. Vitamin D also regulates many other cellular functions in your body.
Is vitamin D linked to PCOS?
Vitamin D affects many systems in your body and is related to serious diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. So maybe it’s not surprising that vitamin D also plays a role in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). … 1 These low levels of vitamin D seem to aggravate PCOS symptoms.
How much vitamin D should I take?
The Vitamin D Council recommends that healthy adults take 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily — more if they get little or no sun exposure. There’s evidence that people with a lot of body fat need more vitamin D than lean people.
Is it OK to take vitamin D everyday?
Unless your doctor recommends it, avoid taking more than 4,000 IU per day, which is considered the safe upper limit.
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Vitamin D Benefits, deficiency, sources, dosage Health Professional Fact 2022