Wondering “how much vitamin D do I need?” Getting adequate vitamin D, along with diet and exercise, is an important element of an individual’s health and well-being. Did you know that vitamin D may help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, and other health conditions? Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones, as it aides in calcium absorption to prevent bones from becoming thin, brittle or misshapen. Research also shows that vitamin D supports the immune system and helps to reduce inflammation.

Are you getting adequate vitamin D to protect your health? The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that children and adults under the age of 50 should get 200 international units (IU) per day while adults over age 50 should get 400-600IU. Recent studies suggest that many Americans are not getting adequate vitamin D due to lack of sunlight exposure and poor diet.

For humans, the leading source of vitamin D is sun exposure. Sunlight stimulates skin to trigger vitamin D synthesis. Sunlight is important, as it may be difficult to meet our needs through food alone. Vitamin D is not present in many foods. For this reason, some foods are fortified with vitamin D, and it is also available as a dietary supplement. There are several forms of vitamin D; the most important ones for us are D2 (made by plants) and D3 (made by humans). A vitamin D supplement can contain D2 and/or D3; however, research has shown that D3 is approximately 3 times more effective.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

Fortified foods sources of vitamin D include milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals.

Tips for getting your daily dose of vitamin D

  • The flesh of fish such as salmon (360 IU), tuna (200 IU) and mackerel (345 IU) are some of the best food sources of vitamin D. Fortified foods sources of vitamin D include milk (98 IU), orange juice (45 IU) and breakfast cereals (40 IU).
  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble so take it along with healthy fats, such as avocado, oil, or fish, so that it absorbs into your system to be used effectively.
  • Try to get 15 to 20 minutes of daily sun exposure on some part of your body, such as your arms before you cover up or apply a sunscreen. Keep in mind that vitamin D-producing UV rays can be blocked by cloud cover and/or smog.
  • People with dark skin have greater amounts of melanin which reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sun exposure. Also, adults over the age of 50 may be at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency. As people get older their skin is not able to synthesize the vitamin as efficiently. In such cases, a supplement may be recommended.
  • When buying a vitamin D supplement, look on the nutrition label to make sure it contains D3.
  • Breast fed infants may need a vitamin D supplement because the requirements cannot be met by human milk alone. Please consult with your health professional.
  • Be mindful that too much vitamin D can lead to excess calcium absorption which can have severe negative health effects on an individual. Studies show that excess vitamin D intake is caused by supplements rather than excessive sun exposure.
  • If you are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, consult with your doctor to learn if a vitamin D test would be beneficial to you.

Sources: Office of Dietary Supplements, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.