Vitamin D has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason! It is often a vitamin the general population is deficient in – as it’s only found naturally in a few foods and can be tricky to obtain otherwise. There are several studies coming out on its potential usefulness in the human body in prevention and improvement of several comorbidities and diseases.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for health. Most notably, Vitamin D is needed to maintain strong bones. Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect against the loss of bone mass. It also has other important functions within the body including muscle and nerve function. The immune system also uses vitamin D to help fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D is also likely a contributing factor to preventing osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), depression, multiple sclerosis (MS), type 2 diabetes, and weight loss.
Vitamin D Requirements:
RDA: The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults 19 years and older is 600 IU daily for men and women, and for adults >70 years it is 800 IU daily.
UL: The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health. The UL for vitamin D for adults and children ages 9+ is 4,000 IU.
How to Obtain Vitamin D:
There are three ways to obtain vitamin D: the sun, through food and drinks, or through supplements.
Sun: Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” your body converts sunlight into vitamin D after it hits unprotected skin. We recommend having your primary care provider check your vitamin D levels regularly – especially if you live in an area – such as the Northern hemisphere- where you’re not getting a lot of regular sunlight.
Food: Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are among the best sources of vitamin D. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolk provide small amounts. Mushrooms also contain this vitamin if grown under UV lights. Fortified foods and drinks provide most of the vitamin D in our diets. Most milk, plant-based beverages and some cereals are fortified with vitamin D. Orange juice, yogurt and cheese may or may not be fortified, so it is always good practice to check the Nutrition Facts Label for vitamin D content.
Supplement: Some people may need extra vitamin D, such as older adults; breastfed infants; people with dark skin; those with certain medical conditions including liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease; and those who are obese or have had gastric bypass surgery. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking a vitamin D supplement.