The human body requires vitamin D to build strong bones and for good overall
health. It plays a vital role in the body’s absorption of calcium.
People who don’t get enough vitamin D can develop soft, thin and
brittle bones. In children, this condition is known as rickets. In adults,
it’s called osteomalacia.
Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” also plays a role in muscle
movement, nerve functioning and in fighting off infection.
It’s been reported that a large proportion of people around the world
are deficient in vitamin D. It’s unclear, however, whether this
is a true deficiency or a result of baseline levels being set too high.
Regardless, there are legitimate concerns about vitamin D deficiency as
we have become more aware of the link between sun exposure and skin cancer.
There are very few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D. In the U.S.,
most of our dietary intake comes from fortified foods, such as milk, some
orange juice, and breakfast cereals. Other foods that contain vitamin
D include fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel; beef liver; egg
yolks; and mushrooms.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends the following vitamin D daily intake:
- Birth to 12 months – 400 IU
- Children 1 to 13 years – 600 IU
- Teens 14-18 years – 600 IU
- Adults 19-70 years – 600 IU
- Adults 71 and older – 800 IU
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women – 600 IU
Do you have a vitamin D deficiency?
The best way to know whether you are getting enough vitamin D is to measure
blood levels of a substance known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Generally, levels
below 30 nmol/L are considered too low for overall health and levels about
125 nmol/L are considered too high.
In general, young people tend to have higher levels than older people;
and men have higher levels than women. Non-Hispanic blacks tend to have
the lowest levels and non-Hispanic whites have the highest. Groups at
risk for not getting enough vitamin D:
- Breastfed infants, since human milk is a poor source of vitamin D
- Older adults, because their skin doesn’t make vitamin D as efficiently
and their kidneys are less able to convert the vitamin to its active form
- People with dark skin, because their skin is less able to make the vitamin
- People with disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease who
don’t handle fat properly because vitamin D needs fat to be absorbed
- Obese people, because body fat binds to some vitamin D, preventing it from
traveling through the bloodstream
Too much of a good thing
As much as our bodies need vitamin D, too much of it can be harmful. Signs
of vitamin D toxicity include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation,
weakness and weight loss. Because it raises calcium levels in the blood,
too much can cause confusion, disorientation and problems with heart rhythms.
Excess vitamin D can also harm the kidneys.
Vitamin D toxicity almost always occurs through overuse of supplements.
You cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.
Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider
Before starting any supplement program, including vitamin D, talk with
your doctor or healthcare provider about the possible risks and benefits.
He or she is the best person to help you take good care of your body.
If you don’t have a physician or provider, please call King’s
Daughters Care 24/7 service at 1-844-324-2200. We will be happy to help
you find a healthcare provider.