How Much Vitamin D Do I Need
We need 10mcg of vitamin D a day.3 Between April and September, around 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight can provide you with enough vitamin D, but this will vary according to your skin type.4 In autumn and winter the sun isnt strong enough in the UK for us to produce vitamin D, so it is recommended that everyone from the age of one takes a daily supplement of 10mcg.5 For vulnerable groups who do not get enough sunshine people with darker skin, those aged 65 or older, people who cover up for religious or cultural reasons, for example a year-round vitamin D supplement is advised.6
Q: Do Some People Naturally Have Lower Vitamin D Levels Than Others
A: People with darker skin pigmentation tend to have lower levels, as do people who use sunscreen, dont spend much time outdoors, or are overweight or obese. This is because vitamin D is fat soluble, so it gets trapped in fatty tissue and cant be used by the body as it should be. Gastrointestinal surgery, like gastric bypass, makes it difficult to absorb vitamin D. And as we age, we dont absorb vitamin D well, and we produce less.
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How Vitamin D Deficiency Affects The Body
Of the 13 essential vitamins, vitamin D might be one of the most unique.
It’s one of the few vitamins your body can produce itself. Well, almost by itself. It needs a little help from the sun hence why it’s often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin. You can also get vitamin D through your diet.
But when you aren’t making or getting enough of it, you might feel the effects of low vitamin D.
“Vitamin D deficiency has become increasingly common over the last decade or so. And this is concerning since a deficiency in vitamin D can have lasting effects on a person’s health and wellness,” says Dr. Donald Brown, primary care practitioner at Houston Methodist.
Left untreated, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults, rickets in children and adverse outcomes in pregnant women. It may also be linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer although more study is needed on the topic.
And while a little bit of sunshine may sound like the simple answer to making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D every day, be warned. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
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Absorb More Vitamin D With The Help Of 5 Key Nutrients
Vitamin D deficiency affects more than 40% of Americans. And, the numbers are even more alarming for people with darker skin color.
But, as surprising as this may sound, eating more dairy foods and spending time outdoors are not a guarantee that your body is getting and using enough vitamin D. And, unfortunately, most people don’t even realize the significant health consequences of a vitamin D deficiency.
For example, weakness, depression and “unexplained” aches and pains are some symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency. In addition, low vitamin D levels can lead to serious health problems, even increasing the risk of premature death.
However, contrary to popular belief, increasing levels of vitamin D may not be enough to protect your health if youre not getting the right amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals.
Discover the 5 nutrients which will help you absorb MORE vitamin D
The vitamins and minerals within our body work together in an interconnected way. Its possible to take in adequate amounts of one vitamin but not reap the benefits because you are lacking something else.
Therefore, let’s focus on the cofactors needed for vitamin D to work well inside your body including:
Vitamin A: This vitamin and vitamin D are cofactors that help your genetic code. In other words, without enough vitamin A, vitamin D cannot do its job efficiently.
How much is enough?
What Happens If I Take Too Much Vitamin D
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body . This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Page last reviewed: 03 August 2020 Next review due: 03 August 2023
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What Other Factors Can Lead To Vitamin D Deficiency
- Age: The skin’s ability to make vitamin D lessens with age.
- Mobility: People who are homebound or are rarely outside are not able to use sun exposure as a source of vitamin D.
- Skin color: Dark-colored skin is less able to make vitamin D than fair-colored skin.
- Human breast milk: A woman’s breast milk only contains a small amount of vitamin D. Often infant formulas also only include a small amount of D also. Therefore infants are at risk of not receiving enough vitamin D. This is especially true for infants who are only fed breast milk.
How Does Sunlight Give Us Vitamin D
When we get sunlight on our skin, our body produces a substance called cholecalciferol.
This is then turned into calcidiol and then calcitriol by the liver and kidneys.
Calcitriol is what your Doctor would measure to assess your Vitamin D levels.
There are three ways to get enough Vitamin D:
During sunny months, your body might make excess calcidiol. But it will not go to waste. Any extra will be stored in your body fat as a kind of back up for those grey winter days.
Experts think that just 10 minutes of sunlight on your skin is enough to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. So get outside when you can!
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Is Vitamin D3 Better Than Vitamin D2
Studies show that Vitamin D3 is far more important for our health than Vitamin D2. So either choose a Vitamin D3 supplement, or one which contains optimal levels of both forms. Vitamin D2 on its own is not enough.
Experts used to think that vitamins D2 and D3 were of equal importance for human health. But this was based on outdated studies of rickets in children. These days, we know lots more about Vitamin D. And it is clear that D3 is far more important and more effective for our health and wellbeing.
We need to look at how the body absorbs Vitamin D to understand why Vitamin D3 is more important. There are lots of biological processes involved. A specific enzyme in the liver helps Vitamin D3 metabolise into the bioactive form of Vitamin D. This process takes much longer with Vitamin D2.
Why Do I Need Vitamin D
Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children and fragile, misshapen bones in adults . You also need vitamin D for other important body functions.
Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease, although they do not definitively prove that lack of vitamin D causes disease — or that vitamin D supplements would lower risk.
The Vitamin D Council — a scientist-led group promoting vitamin D deficiency awareness — suggests vitamin D treatment might be found helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high bloodpressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis. However, there have been no definitive clinical trials.
That’s why the Institute of Medicine expert committee’s November 2010 review found no conclusive evidence that vitamin D, by itself, offers wide-ranging health benefits.
“Despite the many claims of benefit surrounding vitamin D in particular, the evidence did not support a basis for a causal relationship between vitamin D and many of the numerous health outcomes purported to be affected by vitamin D intake,” the IOM committee concluded.
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How Do I Get Vitamin D3
Other than sun exposure, youll need to supplement or get your vitamin D3 from food sources. As always, follow your doctors recommendations for the amount of vitamin D you need. Many factors are taken into account, but a few other reasons you may need a daily supplement:
- If youre pregnant or nursing
- If you spend most time indoors
- If you usually wear long-sleeved clothing outdoors
Few foods contain natural vitamin D. Most foods are fortified to provide you with the proper amount. You can get it from certain foods, though.
Check out the list below of the best food sources of vitamin D:
- Fatty fish – Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are the top sources of vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from shrimp.
- Mushrooms – If youre a fan of mushrooms, youll find some of these contain vitamin D. Some food suppliers are exposing mushrooms to prolonged ultraviolet light to up the vitamin D content!
- Lichen – Reindeer lichen has both vitamins D2 and D3. Wild harvested lichen is a vegan source of vitamin D.
- Certain animal products – Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks all have minute levels of vitamin D.
- Milk and juices – You can find milk and juices that are fortified with vitamin D.
- Organic shots – Our INTENSE DEFENSE shot contains both zinc and vitamin D3 to help boost your immunity. Youll get 235% of your daily value of vitamin D with a single shot! Plus, our reindeer lichen is a vegan source!
What Does Vitamin D3 Do
Vitamin D3 is such a powerful vitamin that its been found to be twice as effective at raising levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream, according to an April 2020 Healthline article.
If you dont get enough vitamin D, you may develop a weakened immune system and have poor hair growth along with higher levels of inflammation.
Other signs of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Mood changes
- Muscle aches or weakness
If youre consuming less than 200 IU daily, you may be at risk of becoming deficient. This risk is especially common in pregnancy. But, women who are intentional about their vitamin D intake can help their babys growth. Research shows pregnant women with higher levels of vitamin D in their system may contribute to better brain development and higher IQ scores for their child.
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Can Vitamin D Affect Mood
Yes, vitamin D does appear to play a slight role in mood regulation, although the jury is still out regarding its effect on depression.
One study found that vitamin D supplements could improve anxiety but did not find that they affected depression (
However, its important to get your vitamin D levels checked before you begin taking high dose vitamin D supplements. You should also work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the right dosage for you.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it can build up in your fat cells. For this reason, taking high doses over time may lead to vitamin D toxicity, which can cause high calcium levels, kidney stones, digestive problems, and neurological changes .
How Can I Help Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency
The goals of treating and preventing the lack of vitamin D of treatment and prevention are the sameto reach and keep an adequate level of vitamin D in the body. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to take or keep taking vitamin D supplements. If so, they will also let you know how much you should take. You might also want to consider:
Eating more foods that contain vitamin D: See the vitamin D food sources table included in this article. Keep in mind that foods alone usually don’t meet the daily recommended levels of vitamin D.
Getting some exposure to sunshinebut not too much: Exactly how much sun exposure is needed isnt clear. 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week to the face, arms, legs or back may be all that is needed to absorb a suitable amount of vitamin D. You might need more sun exposure if:
- You are older.
- You have a darker skin color.
- You live in northern climates.
The use of sunscreen, and standing behind a window, prevents vitamin D from being produced in the skin. However, you should remember that too much sunshine increases the risk of skin cancer and ages the skin. That is why taking an appropriately dosed D supplement is far safer than intentionally getting routine sun exposure.
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Vegan Vitamin D Capsules
Capsules are what most people imagine of when thinking of vitamin supplements. Alas, many vitamin D tablets and capsules contain a non-vegan source of vitamin D3, such as sheep lanolin or fish oils.
Dont worry though, we have a solution! Our Mushroom Vegan Vitamin D Capsules contain 25µg of vitamin D2 in each capsule and you only have to take one a day.
Do Babies Need Vitamin D
Yes, babies under the age of 1 need vitamin D too.
Babies up to 1 year of age who are being breastfed should be given a daily supplement that contains 8.5 10 µg every day to make sure they are reaching recommended levels.17
This still applies if the breastfeeding mother is taking a supplement herself.
However, babies fed infant formulas will not need a vitamin D supplement if they are having more than 500ml of formula a day, as it will already by fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients.
The easiest way to provide breastfed babies with vitamin D is with vitamin D drops.
We have a Vitamin D3 Drop formula that is specifically designed for babies to take daily from birth until they are 12 months old.
- Yes, babies who are being breastfed need 8.5-10µg vitamin D a day
- Babies drinking infant formula wont need to supplement as their milk will have been fortified with vitamin D already
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What Does Sunlight Have To Do With Getting Enough Vitamin D
There are health benefits of sunlight. Vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunshine, or rather, the ultraviolet B radiation that the sun emits. The amount of vitamin D that your skin makes depends on such factors as:
- The season: This factor depends a bit on where you live. In areas such as Cleveland, OH, the UV-B light does not reach the earth for six months out of the year due to the ozone layer and the zenith of the sun.
- The time of day: The sun’s rays are most powerful between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- The amount of cloud cover and air pollution.
- Where you live: Cities near the equator have higher ultraviolet light levels. It is the UV-B light in sunlight that causes your skin to make vitamin D.
- The melanin content of your skin: Melanin is a brown-black pigment in the eyes, hair and skin. Melanin causes skin to tan. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure is needed in order to get sufficient vitamin D from the sun.
What Is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is not one chemical but many. The natural type is produced in the skin from a universally present form of cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight is the key: Its ultraviolet B energy converts the precursor to vitamin D3. In contrast, most dietary supplements are manufactured by exposing a plant sterol to ultraviolet energy, thus producing vitamin D2. Because their function is almost identical, D2 and D3 are lumped together under the name vitamin D but neither will function until the body works its magic .
How your body makes vitamin D
The sun’s energy turns a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3, which is carried to your liver and then your kidneys to transform it to active vitamin D.
The first stop is in the liver, where vitamin D picks up extra oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25D. This is the chemical that doctors usually measure to diagnose vitamin D deficiencies. But although 25D is used for diagnosis, it can’t function until it travels to the kidney. There it acquires a final pair of oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D scientists know this active form of the vitamin as 1,252D, or calcitriol, but for ordinary folks the name vitamin D is accurate enough.
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