Vitamin D

Background Info:

  • Often called the sunshine vitamin

Health Benefits: 

  • Essential for bone health by helping to absorb calcium, which is one of bone’s main building blocks,  into the digestive tract  and into bones to reduce the risk of bone fractures &  protect again osteoporosis in older adults
  • It is needed for ongoing bone growth & remodeling which occur in both children and adults
  • Muscles need it to move, nerves needs it to carry messages between the brain and every body part
  • The immune system needs it to fight off invading bacteria & viruses
  • May fight depression
  • Regulates cell growth
  • Can decrease your risk for colon & breast cancer
  • Can impact heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis
  • Also plays a role in inflammation, neuromuscular function, and muscle metabolism

Recommended Dietary Allowance:

  • Birth-12 months: 400 IU (international units)
  • 1-70 years old: 600 IUs
  • >70 years old: 800 IUs


Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Foritified foods provided most of the vitamin D in American diets

  • Sunlight
    • Sunlight does enable the body to convert inactive vitamin D to its active form, D3, in the body via the liver and kidneys.
    • Cloud cover, shade, pollution, glass windows, and sunscreen all block UV rays, which produce vitamin D.
    • Those who wear head coverings, live at higher latitudes, are older (the process is less efficient with age), are dark-skinned (skin pigment blocks light), or limited time outdoors are particularly unlikely to obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight.
    • It is strongly suggested that the risk of skin cancer overrides the benefit you would receive from additional sun exposure.
  • Fatty fish
    • Salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel are good sources of vitamin D
    • 3 oz of sockeye salmon contain 450 IUs of vitamin D plus you get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Canned fish
    • Canned tuna and sardines contain vitamin D and are a less expensive alternative to fresh fish
    • Canned fish also have a longer shelf life than fresh fish so you can stock up when there’s a sale
    • 4 oz of canned light tuna have 150 IUs
    • 4 oz of canned albacore have 50 IUs
    • 2 oz of canned sardines  have 40 IUs
  • Mushrooms
    • When mushrooms are grown exposed to UV light they can produce vitamin D (just like humans)
    • Some mushrooms are grown in the dark so check to see if your brand uses UV light such as Dole’s portabello mushrooms
    • 3 oz (1 cup diced) of mushrooms have 400 IUs
  • Fortified milk
    • Almost all cow’s milk in the US is fortified with vitamin D
    • Ice cream and cheese are NOT fortified
    • Amounts can be higher or lower depending  on how much is added
    • Some rice and soy milks  are fortified with the same amount as cow milk
    • 8 oz of milk have 100 IUs
    • 6 oz of yogurt have 80 IUs
  • Fortified OJ
    • Not all OJs are fortified and the amounts vary so check the label
    • 2 fortified brands include Florida Natural OJ and Minute Maid Kids+ OJ
    • 8 oz of fortified OJ has 100 IUs
  • Egg yolk
    • Keep in mind 1 egg contains 200 mg of cholesterol and it’s recommended not to exceed more than 300 mg cholesterol per day for heart health
    • 1 yolk has 40 IUs
  • Fortified cereal
    • 1 cup of Multi Grain Cheerios has 40 IUs
  • Beef liver
    • Beef liver contains several nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, protein, and vitamin D
    • It is also high in cholesterol
    • 3.5 oz of cooked beef liver has 50 IUs
  • Cod liver oil
    • Comes in capsule form or flavored with mint  or citrus
    • 1 tablespoon has 1300 IUs
  • Supplements
    • Ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3) are 2 supplemental forms of vitamin D
    • Those with gastric bypass surgery, elderly, obese, IBD, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or liver disease may require a supplement
    • Talk to your doctor before choosing a dosage


  • May develop soft, thin brittle bones
    • Condition called rickets in children & osteomalacia in adults
  • Pregnant women deficient in vitamin D may influence their developing baby’s dentition and can result in more cavities for the child

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Bone pain and muscle weakness

Daily Upper Limit:

  • Too much vitamin D can be toxic
  • The upper limit is 4000 IUs for people >8 years old
  • The upper limit is 1000 IUs for infants

Drug Interactions:

  • Prednisone and other corticosteroid medicines to reduce inflammation impair how the body handles vitamin D, which leads to lower calcium absorption and loss of bone over time.
  • Both the weight-loss drug orlistat (brand names Xenical and Alli) and the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine (brand names Questran, LoCholest, and Prevalite) can reduce the absorption of vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, and K).
  • Both phenobarbital and phenytoin (brand name Dilantin), used to prevent and control epileptic seizures, increase the breakdown of vitamin D and reduce calcium absorption.



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