Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin D
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it can be made by your body when your skin is exposed to the sun. A person’s ability to make vitamin D from sunshine depends on their skin color, how far north they live, and season of the year. Too much sunshine can also be dangerous and put you at risk for skin cancer. Talk to your doctor to decide the right amount of sun for you.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
The main role of vitamin D is to help build and maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth by keeping the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. People who do not get enough vitamin D may get brittle, thin bones. This can lead to bone diseases called rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D may also help with immune and lung function.
Where Can I Find Food Sources of Vitamin D?
Few foods are naturally good sources of vitamin D. Egg yolks, beef liver, and oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and canned sardines and tuna, as well as fish oils, are good sources of vitamin D. Some foods may be fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, soy beverages, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and ready to eat breakfast cereals. Ice cream, cheese, and cottage cheese may not be fortified. Because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it needs fat to be absorbed.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Vitamin D IU (International Units)
Birth – 12 months
> 70 years
Although these are the current recommendations for vitamin D, many people may need more vitamin D, above all people with increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How Do I Know if I am Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Some people are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. Check the list below to see if you fall into any of these lists. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you are getting enough vitamin D.
People with Increased Risk of Vitamin D deficiency
- Infants who are breastfed (breast milk is low in vitamin D)
- Older adults over age 50
- People with little sun exposure
- People with dark skin
- People who live in the northern half of the US, including all of the Midwest
- People with fat malabsorption (Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn’s disease,)
- Obese people
Vitamin D supplements can interact with some medicines including steroids, medicines that suppress the immune system, some medicines that lower cholesterol, phenytoin, phenobarbitol, and some weight-loss medicines. If you are on any of these medicines, talk to your healthcare provider to find out whether or not you are getting enough vitamin D.
Can I Get Too Much Vitamin D?
It is possible to get too much vitamin D from intake of fish liver oils or vitamin D supplements. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, weakness, poor appetite, and constipation. The current Tolerable Upper Intake (levels thought to be safe) for vitamin D supplements are:
1000 IU for infants 0-6 months
1500 IU for infants 7-12 months
2500 IU for children 1-3 years
3000 IU for children 4-8 years
4000 IU for adults and children aged 9 years and older
Where and When Should I get My Vitamin D Level Checked?
Vitamin D levels can be checked with a simple blood test. Ask your health care provider if you need to have your vitamin D level checked. The vitamin D level in your blood was _________ when tested on __________ (date). The normal range for your age is __________.
Vitamin D supplements are offered in tablet, soft gel, or liquid form over the counter, anywhere vitamins are sold. In order to maintain or improve your vitamin D level, your recommended supplement is:
Type/Brand_____________ Dose ______________ Frequency ____________
Take Vitamin D with food ________________
** Be sure to choose one with “cholecalciferol” as the vitamin D source.
**Do not begin taking high doses of vitamin D without first talking to your health care provider.
If you have questions and attend a certain UW Health clinic please contact your clinic and ask to speak with the nutritionist. You may also contact one of the offices below:
2880 University Ave
Madison, WI 53705
UW Health West Clinic
451 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
UW Health East Clinic
5249 East Terrace Dr
Madison, WI 53718
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/16/2013
Copyright © 02/16/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#487
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