Vitamin D: What Is It For? How Is It Used? What To Expect?

WHAT IS VITAMIN D TAKEN FOR?

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that serves a variety of functions throughout the body.

Benefit

Summary

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Develop strong healthy bones

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D can lead to soft, brittle bones.

Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect adults from developing osteomalacia, a condition which bones are fragile and can fracture upon falling. Osteoporosis may develop in older age due to weakening of previously constructed bone.

 

Mayo Clinic

Strengthen the immune system

The immune system uses vitamin D to fight off infections.

Vitamin D helps prevent infections associated with certain skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis (characterized by itchy, red skin).

UC San Diego

Lower blood pressure

By lowering blood pressure, vitamin D may help to prevent heart disease.

WebMD

Medscape

Reduce cancer risk

Vitamin D may reduce the incidence of cancer of the breast, colon, kidney, and bladder.

Cancer.gov

 

Medscape

Prevent autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis may be prevented by having adequate amounts of vitamin D. 

UC San Diego

WebMD

Medscape

Lift mood

May help increase mood in depression

Medscape

So much more!

Scientific evidence has shown that Vitamin D has many more benefits.

MedlinePlus

 

 

HOW MUCH VITAMIN D DO I NEED? 

The amount of vitamin D needed depends on age. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that adults age 19-70 years old obtain 600 international units (IU) on average per day.

Life Stage

Daily Recommended Amount

Birth to 12 months

400 IU

Children 1–13 years

600 IU

Teens 14–18 years

600 IU

Adults 19–70 years

600 IU

Adults 71 years and older

800 IU

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

600 IU

Talk to your health provider before starting vitamin D to assess if you have a vitamin D deficiency. A lab test can measure blood levels of vitamin D in the form of 25-hydroxyvitamin D . Based on your vitamin D levels, your health provider may recommend vitamin D supplementation and, if so, how much you should take daily. Below are various levels of vitamin D along with corresponding health status.2,3

Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] Concentrations and Health*

nmol/L**

ng/mL*

Health status

<30

<12

Low. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to osteomalacia in adults

30–50

12–20

Inadequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals

≥50

≥20

Adequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals

>125

>50

High. Linked to potential adverse effects and toxicity.

* Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D are reported in both nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) and nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
** 1 nmol/L = 0.4 ng/mL

 

 

HOW TO OBTAIN VITAMIN D4,5,6,7

Vitamin D can be made by your body

  • When the skin is directly exposed to the sun, the body makes vitamin D. Approximately 10-15 minutes per day of exposure to sunlight is enough to stimulate vitamin D synthesis. Sunlight exposure should be limited to avoid skin cancer. SPF of 15 or more should be applied if in the sun for longer than 15 minutes.
  • The daily recommended vitamin D intake are set on the assumption of little sun exposure

Vitamin D can be consumed in various foods

  • Dietary vitamin D is the best source of vitamin D.
    • Fish (i.e. salmon, tuna)
    • Beef liver
    • Cheese
    • Egg yolk
    • Fortified beverages (i.e. milk, orange juice)
    • Fortified foods (i.e. breakfast cereal, yogurt)

Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement

  • Available in two different forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms increase vitamin D levels in the blood. Cholecalciferol is most similar to the vitamin D the body produces and is most effective at raising blood concentration of vitamin D compared with ergocalciferol.
  • How to take:
    • Talk to your health provider before starting vitamin D to assess if you have a vitamin D deficiency.
    • Your doctor may recommend Vitamin D supplementation if the levels of vitamin D in the blood are low and, if so, how much vitamin D you should take daily.
    • Vitamin D supplements should be taken with a snack or meal containing fat to increase absorption.
  • What to expect:
    • When taking vitamin D supplementation it is important to have levels checked routinely to ensure appropriate and safe levels are reached. 
    • Vitamin D toxicity can occur from getting too much vitamin D (most often associated with taking too much vitamin D supplements)
      • Signs of toxicity: Nausea, vomiting, constipation, weakness, poor appetite. Can also cause confusion and irregular heart rhythm by raising calcium levels.
    • Drug interactions can occur between vitamin D and other medications
  • Tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you are taking. 

 

 

References:

  1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/
  2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003569.htm
  3. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en1
  4. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/ 
  5. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/731722
  6. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-929-vitamin%20d.aspx?activeingredientid=929&activeingredientname=vitamin%20d
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-d/background/hrb-20060400