Vitamin D plays an important role in several bodily functions. This vitamin is fat soluble and has been at the center of attention in recent years.
Vitamin D helps absorb calcium in the small intestines and is essential for bone growth and maintaining bone density. This vitamin is believed to have some role in the prevention of cancer, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, infections, and a number of other conditions.
Natural sources of vitamin D
1) Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): Is synthesized in plants and fungi following the exposure to ultraviolet light.
2) Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): Ultraviolet-B radiation from the sun prompts the production of vitamin D3 from 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) in the skin.
Which kind is better?
Several studies suggest that vitamin D 3 is absorbed better and is more efficient in increasing and maintaining the blood vitamin D level.
Most Americans, according to statistics, consume between 272-396 IU of Vitamin D daily.
Foods with the highest content of vitamin D in IU
|Food||Vitamin D content in IU|
|Dried shitake mushrooms (non-radiated)||1660/100 g|
|Atlantic herring (raw)||1628/100 g|
|Canned pink salmon with bones in oil||624/100 g|
|Fortified orange juice/soy milk/rice milk||400/L|
|Canned tuna/sardines/salmon/mackerel in oil||224–332/100 g|
|Yogurt (normal, low fat, or nonfat)||89/100 g|
|Swiss cheese||44/100 g|
Adapted from United States Department of Agriculture
Vitamin D content in breast milk
The breast milk of a healthy mother does not provide the suggested daily amount of Vitamin D.
Amount of body necessary to be exposed to sun
According to studies, at least 20% of the body’s surface should be exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun. Sunlight is one of the most controversial (e.g. skin damage, cancer) natural sources of vitamin D.
Wearing white cotton transmits more UV-B to the body than black wool and allows for blood vitamin D concentrations to increase. Additionally, sunscreen could reduce the absorption of UV-B and consequently cause lower blood levels of this vitamin. For instance, sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 can decrease vitamin D3 absorption by 95%, and SPF 15 can decrease it by 98%.
How much daily intake is required?
T h e E n d o c r i n e S o c i e t y’s- Clinical Guidelines
|Infant and children 0-1year||400 IU/ daily|
|Children 1 year and older||600 IU/ daily|
|Adults 18-50 year||600 IU/ daily|
|Adults 50-70 year||600-800 IU/daily|
|Pregnant women||At least 600 IU/daily|
|Patients on seizure medications,steroids, antifungals such as ketoconazole and medications for AIDS||at least two to three times more vitamin D for their age group|
Institute of Medicine Guidelines
|Infants 0-12 months||No recommendations|
|Infant and children 1-18 year||600 IU/ daily|
|Adults 18-70 year||600 IU/ daily|
|Adults older than 70 year||800 IU/ daily|
|Pregnant women||600 IU/daily|
Vitamin D is shown to be an important part of many bodily functions and therefore, a healthy level is essential.
The accuracy of vitamin D level measurement throughout the country has been limited and is a cause of concern. Hopefully, with usage of better techniques the accuracy and reliability of these tests will also improve.
There have been confusing recommendations from different organizations about the amount of Vitamin D necessary to prevent deficiency in recent years, including the recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s conclusion that the benefits and harms of daily supplementation with greater than 400 IU of vitamin D3 and greater than 1,000 mg of calcium to prevent fractures are not clearly understood.
In my opinion, the guidelines from the Endocrine Society and Institute of Medicine are not very different from each other. The Endocrine Society’s recommendations are slightly more specific. Therefore, I would suggest following these recommendations at this time until more data is available.
Let’s review the recommendations one more time,
Infant and children 0-1year 400 IU/ daily
Children 1 year and older 600 IU/ daily
Adults 18-50 year 600 IU/ daily
Adults 50-70 year 600-800 IU/daily
Pregnant women At least 600 IU/daily
It is also important to mention that overuse of this vitamin may cause more harm than good and should be discouraged.
Are you on any vitamin D supplements?
Make sure that you discuss the appropriate daily dosage of this vitamin with your doctor next time.
Please read this article and share it with your friends and family members!
- Holick MF2007 Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 357:266–281 CrossRefMedline
- Trang HM, Cole DE, Rubin LA, Pierratos A, Siu S, Vieth R. Evidence that vitamin D3 increases serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D more efficiently than does vitamin D2. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68 (4):854– 858 Abstract
- Leerbeck E, Sondergaard H. The total content of vitamin D in human milk and cow’s milk. Br J Nutr. 1980;44 (1):7– 12 CrossRefMedlineWeb of Science