How Much Vitamin D Do You Need
Despite widespread assertions in the popular and scientific press that many Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, the term “deficiency” isn’t strictly accurate. The official definition of a vitamin deficiency means that specific health problems stem solely from the lack of a specific nutrient. An actual vitamin D deficiency results in bone disease, such as rickets, which is rare in the United States.
On the other hand, lower-than-optimal levels of specific vitamins, including vitamin D, may increase your risk of numerous health problems, even though they are not solely responsible for these problems. “Insufficiency” may be a better term for these lower levels than “vitamin D deficiency”.
So far, the most clearly established benefit of vitamin D is that it helps the body absorb calcium and therefore promotes healthy bones. However, a steady drumbeat of studies beginning in the 1980s started to build a case that low blood levels of D were connected with a variety of chronic health problems, leading to claims by a number of researchers that the RDA for D was way too low. The confusion and controversy surrounding optimal vitamin D intake and blood values prompted the U.S. and Canadian governments to request that the Institute of Medicine review the evidence on vitamin D and calcium and update the DRIs.
To learn more about the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy, read , a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Where Can I Buy It
Vitamin D supplements are widely available from supermarkets and chemists. They may be just vitamin D or part of a multivitamin tablet.
The ingredient listed on the label of most Vitamin D supplements is D3, the one made by your skin. Vitamin D2 is produced by plants.
Vitamin drops are available for babies.
How Much Vitamin D Do Children Need
Babies and young children need about 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Older children and adolescents need at least 600 international units of vitamin D daily.
Excessive vitamin D status can cause conditions like kidney stones when ingested in abnormally high amounts. Infants shouldnt exceed 1,000 IU per day. Children up to 8 years should adhere to a limit of 2,500 IU. People 9 years and older shouldnt ingest more than 4,000 IU daily.
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Theres Nothing Like A Warm Sunny Day After A Long Canadian Winter
What you may not know is that Vitamin D, a.k.a the sun vitamin, is naturally produced by our bodies when our skin is exposed to the suns rays. Vitamin D is also available as a tiny little pill, and a lot of Canadians are taking it in varying dosages. But how much is too much Vitamin D?
First, lets break down why we need Vitamin D. This essential vitamin helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus from the foods we eat, which leads to normal growth and development of bones and teeth. It may even help us develop better resistance to diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis!
The debate about how much to take has raged for years, but doctors recommend that all Canadians, no matter where we live in this great country, should be getting Vitamin D from fortified drinks or supplements.
Health Canada says 27-80% of adult men dont get enough Vitamin D naturally from the foods they eat. For guys over 50, taking at least 400 IU of Vitamin D every day is awesome. Right now, Health Canada is reviewing the guidelines for all Canadians, so stay tuned. In the meantime, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about taking a supplement and feel free to drink fortified drinks with Vitamin D!
The Vitamin D Dilemma: How Much Should We Be Taking
This article was published more than 6 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
Vitamin D tabletes are photographed in the Globe studio on March 26 2015.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
True, it was a painful winter. We were stuck in a cocoon of cold with limited daylight to lift our winter-weary spirits. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that vitamin D has emerged as a central point of controversy. In a country with little, if any, opportunity to synthesize the vitamin in fall and winter, the seasons with the least amount of sunlight, we should know just how much of the sunshine supplement we really need.
Root of the controversy
It seems that every few years vitamin D steals the spotlight, as researchers learn more about its possible link to various conditions and diseases.
This latest controversy was prompted by an analysis by Paul Veugelers and John Paul Ekwaru, biostatisticians from the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Published last October in the online journal Nutrients, their work concluded that the U.S.-based Institute of Medicine the organization that develops Recommended Dietary Allowances for Canadians and Americans made a serious calculation error in determining the RDAs for vitamin D. That error, the scientists asserted, has serious public health implications.
Why do we need vitamin D?
An evolving field
Too much of a good thing
How much do you need?
Can’t I just bask in the sun?
What about food?
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How Much Vitamin D Should I Take
A high percentage of adults, somewhere between 50 percent and upward of 90 percent depending on ethnicity and location, are believed to be at least somewhat deficient in vitamin D. It makes sense then that vitamin D is now one of the most widely consumed supplements, though you may wonder how much vitamin D should I take. Its a tricky question, but its important to get enough of this essential vitamin.
Deficiency in vitamin D is a real problem considering that this nutrient has been shown to promote health by helping with absorption of minerals like calcium, aiding in bone health, boosting immune function, supporting growth and development, and much more. If you spend little time outdoors in the sun, have dark skin, are over the age of 70 or live in northern regions of the world where theres less sunshine year-round, then youre more likely to experience vitamin D deficiency symptoms.
When it comes to reaping the many benefits of vitamin D, you may be wondering how much vitamin D should I take? The optimal amount of vitamin D to take in supplement form depends on a number of factors for example, if youre already deficient in vitamin D, your diet, age, health status, where you live and so on. As you can see, answering the question of how much vitamin D I should take isnt necessarily cut and dry.
Your Value Is Between 40
In the view of vitamin D experts this level means you’re getting an adequate amount of vitamin D. Most people would produce this amount of vitamin D in their body if they were exposed to the sun completely naked all year at the equator. These levels are also achieved by hunter-gatherers in the bush in Africa who live a traditional way of life.
At this vitamin D level, the body can perfectly regulate calcium absorption via the adequate formation of parathyroid hormone. Breastfeeding mothers can sufficiently pass on vitamin D to their baby through breast milk.
Some studies suggest that these amounts of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers and with better heart and circulation health. Research results also indicate that vitamin D levels in this range strengthen the immune system and support the body in fighting infection.
If your vitamin D blood level is e.g. 25 ng/ml or higher and you want to increase them, you can take the following amount of vitamin D :
To reach the mentioned value.. take this vitamin D Dose per day:
50 ng/ml ..900 IU 60 ng/ml ..3000 IU 70 ng/ml ..5700 IU
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How Much Vitamin A Is Safe
I am concerned about your recommendations for supplemental vitamin A. Most conventional wisdom and research indicate that 20,000 I.U. of vitamin A can be toxic, even lethal. It scares me to follow this advice.
Andrew Weil, M.D. | November 28, 2014
Originally published February 21, 2002. Updated November 28, 2014.
You are right to be concerned about vitamin A toxicity. But first, please note that vitamin A comes in many forms. It is the animal form that is toxic, not plant-derived beta-carotene, which is the form I recommend in the Vitamin Advisor.
The upper limit of vitamin A set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences is 10,000 IU per day. This limit refers to pre-formed Vitamin A, which can be found in foods and dietary supplements as palmitate, acetate or fish liver oil, all of which are derived from animal sources. Although vitamin A is an essential nutrient, an excessive, chronic intake of these forms of vitamin A can be toxic, leading to hair loss, confusion, liver damage, and we now know bone loss.
I suggest taking a supplement that provides 15,000 I.U. of mixed carotenoids. While that does not excuse you from eating tomatoes, carrots, fruits, and greens, it is useful insurance against failing to supply your body with all the antioxidant protection it needs. Read labels carefully to make sure the product youre using includes lycopene and lutein, and does not contain pre-formed vitamin A.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Can I Get Too Much Vitamin D
Too much of any good thing is a bad thing. Too much vitamin D can cause an abnormally high bloodcalcium level, which could result in nausea, constipation, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, and even kidney stones.
The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board’s old 1997 recommendations suggested that 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D is safe for adults and that 1,000 IU per day is safe for infants up to 12 months of age. Many observers expected a drastic increase in the IOM’s 2010 update.
That didn’t exactly happen. The IOM committee did increase its “upper level intake” — that is, the boundary at which it feared vitamin D would become unsafe. That dose is 4,000 IU/day for adults, 3,000 IU/day for kids ages 4-8, 2,500 IU/day for kids ages 1-3, 1,500 IU/day for infants ages 6-12 months, and 1,000 IU/day for infants ages 0-6 months.
But some recent studies suggest that healthy adults can tolerate more than 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day. John Jacob Cannell, MD, executive director of The Vitamin D Council, notes that the skin makes 10,000 IU of vitamin D after 30 minutes of full-body sun exposure. He suggests that 10,000 IU of vitamin D is not toxic.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 25-OHD levels that are consistently over 200 ng/mL are “potentially toxic.”
more is better.'”
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Babies Need A Vitamin D Boost
Because a typical mothers breast milk does not give her baby enough vitamin D, breastfed babies need vitamin D supplementation. Either the baby can be given drops of 400 IU a day directly or the mother can take 5,000 IU a day , which will fortify her milk with enough vitamin D for the baby. We call this super milk!
Although all standard infant formulas are fortified with vitamin D, vitamin D supplementation is also recommended for formula-fed babies. A baby would need to drink a quart of formula each day to get the recommended amount of vitamin D, Dr. Levine says, and young infants may not take in that much. Consult with your babys pediatrician or healthcare provider to make sure they are getting all the vitamin D they need.
Will Vitamin D Prevent Dementia Cancer And/or Premature Death
Several studies have identified an association between vitamin D deficiency and diagnoses such as Alzheimers disease and cancer. In other words, people with these conditions tend to have low vitamin D blood levels.
But an association isnt the same thing as causation, so its not yet known whether vitamin D deficiency causes these diseases. Its also not yet known whether taking vitamin D supplements will reduce ones chance of developing these diseases.
To date, most randomized studies of vitamin D to improve health outcomes have been negative.
Although its possible that low vitamin D levels might be a factor in developing certain diseases, its probably a small effect. Cancer and Alzheimers, after all, generally seem to be the result of lots of little factors genetics, epigenetics, stress, immune function, nutrition, inflammation, toxins interacting over time.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine concluded: This thorough review found that information about the health benefits of vitamin D supplementation beyond bone healthbenefits often reported in the mediawere from studies that provided often mixed and inconclusive results and could not be considered reliable.
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Filling The Gaps In Your Childs Diet
It might take your child a while to come around on a balanced diet. Some teenagers are not much better. When there are gaps in your childs diet, consider filling them in with a multivitamin supplement.
Speak to your childs pediatrician about their eating habits. If necessary, your pediatrician may run tests to check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies. These are rare in the developed world, even in picky eaters. Theres usually no cause for concern. Your pediatrician can give you advice about multivitamin supplementation.
Low-dose multivitamins are usually safe for most children. Theyre especially important for children with food allergies, significant food aversions, intolerances, and dietary restrictions.
Vitamin D Supplements Advice
Vitamin D supplements may state the amount in micrograms or international units . 1 microgram of vitamin D is the same as 40 international units . 10 micrograms equates to 400 international units .
Everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D , particularly during the winter months .
It is specifically recommended that groups at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency take a daily supplement all year round. These groups include:
- all pregnant and breastfeeding women
- infants and children under 5 years old
- people who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, are housebound, confined indoors for long periods or live in an institution
- people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and south Asian origin, who require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D
The current guidance on sun exposure should be followed: 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sun exposure is safe for all. Once sunscreen is correctly applied, vitamin D synthesis is blocked. Staying in the sun for prolonged periods without the protection of sunscreen increases the risk of skin cancer.
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My Recommended Daily Dose For Vitamin D In Older Adults
For most older adults, I recommend a supplement of vitamin D 1000 IU/day.
I do this because:
- The American Geriatrics Society recommends that clinicians tell older patients to take vitamin D 1000 IU/day, to help prevent fractures.
I also do this because:
- Many older adults have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. These include having osteoporosis and spending limited time outdoors.
- The skin becomes less able to synthesize vitamin D as people get older.
- Vitamin D seems to be involved in muscle function. Some research has suggested it can help reduce falls, other research hasnt confirmed this finding. Either way, it seems sensible to avoid frank deficiency.
- In the vast majority of older people, taking vitamin D 1000 IU as a supplement every day has very low risk of harm.
- Research suggests that taking vitamin D 1000 IU/day will prevent low vitamin D levels in most older adults.
Other expert groups have provided similar vitamin D guidance. For instance, in 2010 the Institute of Medicine published a report with age-based Recommended Daily Allowances for vitamin D in normal healthy persons. For people aged 1-70, they recommended 600 IU/day. For people aged 71+, they recommended 800 IU/day.
Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D are common in older adults who dont take supplements, but are uncommon in those who do take supplemental vitamin D.
Vitamin D Supplements: What Parents Should Know
Getting enough vitamin D is essential so kids bones can grow strong and their immune systems can ward off illness.
Vitamin D gets into the body through absorption of sunlight and ingestion of food. From April through the end of October, spending just 15 to 30 minutes outside in the middle of the day with hands and face exposed will stimulate the skin to make all the vitamin D your child needs. In fact, on a sunny summer day, a child wearing a bathing suit can generate 10,000 to 20,000 international units of vitamin D after 15 to 30 minutes. In a neat biological trick, a persons body cant overdose on vitamin D created by the sun.
Foods such as salmon, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolks and shiitake mushrooms contain a lot of vitamin D. Many kids dont seem to love these vitamin D superfoods, so luckily store-bought milk is often fortified with vitamin D, as are many cereals and even orange juice. Not all dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, however, so make sure to read the labels.
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Your Value Is Between 80
These values are only slightly above those that can be achieved naturally by exposing the skin to the sunlight. It is assumed that these values cannot be achieved without taking vitamin D in dietary supplement form. To date, no risks are known which would result from consistently high values in the range of 80-100 ng/ml.