Nutrient to Know: Vitamin D

by in Food News, Nutrients to Know, January 23, 2009


You may be up to speed on vitamin C and even know a bit about the various B vitamins, but what about vitamin D? Well, some are calling it the “super supplement.” Here is what you need to know.

What Is It?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it needs fat to be absorbed by the body. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to have fat in your diet. In October 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled the amount of vitamin D recommended for infants, children and adolescents (from 200 IU to 400 IU). This drastic change made many people take a closer look at this vitamin.

Why Is It Good for You?
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone growth. For children, it helps prevent rickets, which is a softening of the bones characterized by knocked knees and bowed legs. In adults, this condition is known as osteomalacia and is characterized by bending of the bones, especially the spine. Vitamin D is also involved in nerve and muscle function and helps reduce inflammation in the body. Recent research suggests that it may also play a role in immune system function and protection against high blood pressure.

Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin D is one of the only vitamins that your body can make on its own! Your skin can actually synthesize vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight (how cool is that?). Foods such as eggs, fish, mushrooms and fortified milk products also contain vitamin D. Since it is not present in a wide range of foods, supplements are also available. Look for vitamin D in a multi-vitamin or a separate supplement in the form of vitamin D3.

It’s important to note that you cannot overdose on vitamin D with too much sun exposure, but too much from supplements can be toxic. Always talk with a registered dietitian or your doctor before taking a supplement. Signs of overdoing it include nausea, confusion and fatigue.

[Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski / SXC ]

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Comments (69)

  1. David says:

    I saw a pharmacist on a local early morning show saying that their were 3 essential supplements needed to round out a healthy diet. His contention was that we don’t get enough of these vitamins in our diet.

    Some doctors contend that supplements are unnecessary. Is this true?

    Also, I take a multi-vitamin (which I’m afraid doesn’t give me the necessary vitamins to complete a well rounded diet).

    What were the three supplements required for a well rounded diet?

    I know two of them were C and E. The older I get,the more health conscious I become.

    Any help,other than “consult your physician”, or suggestions would be most appreciated.

  2. Karen says:

    I was interested to see that no mention was made of the reccommendations for those living in climates with cold, dark winters to supplement with vitamin D. I routinely add D from October through April living in New England.

  3. Dana White says:

    Hi Karen – You bring up an important point. Individuals who have limited sun exposure can consult with a dietitian to determine if they are getting enough Vitamin D from food and decide whether a supplement is necessary.

  4. David says:

    I live in Southern Tennessee. Our exposure to sunlight,during the winter,is at best “minimal”.

  5. Shelly Lawsonn says:

    This is a great article. Most people truly don’t know how much vitamin D they should be including in their diet, or their children’s for that matter. Kids tend to be a bit more difficult to find good sources. Like the article suggests, foods like fortified milk and soy are good sources of Vitamin D, as are some juices that are made especially for kids (less sugar and fortified with essential vitamins, including vitamin D such as First Juice).

  6. Debbie says:

    Wow! I can’t believe I happened to come across this information today – I just found out that my Vitamin D level is 8 – which is very low. I stopped drinking milk and slowed down on dairy because of an interolance one year ago. I didn’t think about supplementing my diet afterwards – hope I haven’t incurred any damage. I’m off to find a supplement!

  7. Pat Bennett says:

    An interesting article regarding Vitamin D appeared in my local newpaper last week. Written by an M.D., he says that this is the “hottest” vitamin under study these days. USRDA recommendation of 400-600 units per day fail to consider that many individual levels show a deficiency. He states: “If you live north of the latitude line of Atlanta, Georgia, no amount of sunshine in the winter can raise your vitamin D level. A rough rule of thumb is that every 1000 units of vitamin D taken daily will raise your vitamin D blood level by one. A normal vitamin D level (measured as a 25-hydroxy vitamin D level) is between 30 and 100, with a target level of at least 50-60 for optimal disease prevention. A toxic level is greater than 200, which is really difficult to exceed.” I hope this helps those of you who live in ‘sun deprived’ areas of the world.

  8. Juls says:

    I have a slight vitamin D defeinciency and I also have MS …my doctor told me a lot of people with low D have a tendency toward MS. I think I believe that.

  9. Barb says:

    My doctor has me on 4000 IU every day for life….to maintain Vitamin D levels..I was on 50,000 IU once a week to get my level up to normal. You can get 2000 IU at Sams Club or on line at Carlsons Vitamins… I have been taking the 2000 IU for a few years now. It is suppose to help with your energy levels too. Everyone should have a Vitamin D blood test.

    Thanks and hope this helps everyone.

  10. Ellen says:

    I am from New England ,now living near Galveston. All through the summer I did not take any Vit D. And I did not wear any sunscreen. My D was only 25. I have read somewhere that some folks just can’t seem to make enough. My Dr. has put me on 4000 Vit D3 from fish oil and not from Lanolin or the veg formula. I also have Hashimoto’s disease. Autoimmune disorders are linked with low Vit D levels.

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