After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.
The Function of Vitamin D in the Body
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in some foods, and it is also manufactured within the human body when skin is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays. It is necessary for promoting calcium absorption, helps keep bones healthy, and prevents osteoporosis. Lack of vitamin D causes calcium depletion in the bones.
Sailors used to get rickets from a lack of vitamin D when on long sea journeys, but there is no reason for anyone to be low on vitamin D today.
How Much Vitamin D Is Required?
There is a growing consensus that people need higher vitamin D levels than had previously been recommended. For years, it was recommended that individuals under 50 years of age take 200 IU (International Units) daily, and those 50-70 years of age take 400 IU. Now, these dosages are considered too low. According to the National Institutes of Health, people should aim for 600 IU a day.
Years ago, there was much concern about fat-soluble vitamins building up in your system and causing negative effects, but at this time scientists can’t even agree on the exact amount an individual needs. They are not concerned about toxicity, although obviously, you would not take tablets by the handful.
A recent study showed that people who had vitamin D levels in the range of 1000 IU had excellent outcomes, especially for the elderly and for people with type II diabetes. However, you cannot eat enough vitamin D food sources to get to this level. There are some foods with vitamin D that you will see on the chart below, but the selection is limited unless you are really fond of cod liver oil.
Vitamin D Food Chart
|Food||IUs Per Serving||Percent Recommended Daily Intake|
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces
Egg, 1 large
Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment
Treating vitamin D deficiency is quite simple. You can buy vitamin D3 pills over the counter, and you can take them combined with calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Doctors also prescribe vitamin D if your level is low, which typically would be a dosage of 50,000 IU once a week.
Quite often, a short course of the prescription will get you to a healthy level, and you may continue with over-the-counter D3. Researchers, of course, are not going to recommend you live your life in the sun for the sake of vitamin D levels due to the risk of skin cancer. Being out in the sun with lots of sunscreen is a smart way to avoid getting skin damage, but it won’t get your vitamin D levels high enough.
Osteoporosis (a disease that makes bones thin and brittle, thus causing fractures more easily) is certainly one of the main reasons for increasing your vitamin D level, but it will also help prevent fractures at any age. It will help bones grow strong and healthy. According to WebMD, if your level of vitamin D is too low, you won’t absorb the amount of necessary calcium to stay healthy, so post-menopausal women are at the highest risk for problems.
Vitamin K2 is also an important vitamin when taking vitamin D3. It regulates calcium depositions, keeping it at the appropriate level. Vitamin K2 is found in animal food and fermented vegetables, but when taking a D3 supplement it can be important. A European study showed K2 to be a beneficial for bone and cardiovascular health.
Vitamin D From the Sun
Autoimmune Diseases Require Higher Levels of Vitamin D
I don’t drink milk or eat any dairy products due to a medical lung problem, and yes I do miss cheese and ice cream. I quit drinking milk some years ago. Therefore, there are very few foods to eat that have vitamin D, but I do enjoy fish. I take a supplement, and the doctor periodically checks my blood level.
Healthcare professionals recommend that blood levels of vitamin D should be higher for people with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Doctors are checking vitamin D levels with routine lab work much more frequently now for many people, and if yours is not being checked, then ask.
Many people are taking vitamin D3 supplements, which are vitamin D3 tablets along with magnesium and calcium. This is a good way to ensure you are getting important protectors available in your bloodstream. Calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium have been shown in numerous studies to work well when taken together, and vitamin D is more effective when taken this way.
Vitamin D - Synthesis and Roles in the Body
Vitamin D Helps Prevent Other Diseases
Another very important reason to be concerned about low intake of vitamin D is the correlation of low vitamin D with cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and possibly type II diabetes. There is a vast amount of ongoing research to determine the healthiest levels. I imagine there will be changing guidelines as researchers learn more about vitamin D.
Several studies have shown that a higher intake of vitamin D correlates with lower incidences of cancers, particularly colon and colorectal cancers.
Greater sun exposure has also been shown to reduce cancer deaths also.
The Importance of Vitamin D
I hope this article explains the importance of vitamin D and the problems with vitamin D deficiency. Also, most people are probably not getting enough vitamin D in their diet, particularly if they are post-menopausal or elderly.
Of course, vitamin D is important for growing children as their bones grow so rapidly. At least most children are milk drinkers, which is important, but children's vitamins are a good idea. We will be hearing more about this vitamin as new research is completed.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: What about K2? Isn’t it necessary for D3 absorption?
Answer: Yes, K2 is necessary for D3 absorption, which was not known until 2006. I should have included K2 in this article. K2 is found in meats, while K1 is found in leafy vegetables. K2 is good for your bones, particularly for someone with osteoporosis.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 01, 2011:
Chuck, Thank you for adding this information.
Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on August 01, 2011:
It is good to let people know about vitamin D. But you mixed up something. "You use to hear about sailors getting rickets from lack of vitamin D when on long sea journeys" There is plenty of sunshine on ships, but a lack of fruit. So many sailors got scurvy from lack of vitamin C in fruits. So the English started bringing limes with them and that cured it. They are still called limeys. So vitamin C cured scurvy.
Rickets is a game that English people play. Just kidding! That is cricket. Rickets was an epidemic among American children causing severe bone problems. That was cured with vitamin D. But now rickets is making a comeback since children are avoiding the sun or using sunblock.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 22, 2010:
okmom, Thank you for your comments.
Donna Oliver from Midwest, U.S.A. on November 22, 2010:
Educational and informative article. Well written and organized hub. Voted up and useful.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2010:
oceansnsunsets, It sounds like you are doing it just right. Thanks for your comment.
Paula from The Midwest, USA on November 21, 2010:
Pamela, I take vitamin d in my multivitamin, and love milk. Thanks for sharing!
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 19, 2010:
Audry, Thanks so much for your comments.
RTalloni, I agree that we have a lot of learn but I am glad that physicians are finally looking at nutrition as they didn't for many years. I appreciate your comments.
RTalloni on November 18, 2010:
Great hub from you, as usual. Thanks for expanding our knowledge. There seems to be some controversy about vit. D deficiency being related to usage of sunscreen. We have a lot to learn about what was once the "norm" in medicine and I appreciate this latest on such an important vitamin.
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 18, 2010:
Great info and Nellieanna has some great insight into it too....very important when taking calcium to get it to absorb properly.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 18, 2010:
Billy, I agree and I appreciate your comments.
Nellieanna. Thank you so much for your comments and your additional information.
Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 18, 2010:
What a great and informative hub, Pamela!
I'm extremely fair and sun-sensitive, so must supplement with Vit. D with my calcium supplement. You've clarified a misconception I've had though. I knew sailors get rickets and that they often lack Vitamin C in their diets, especially the non-officers. I'd always assumed they get plenty of sunshine on ships (one reason I forego cruises is the sun exposure) - so I associated rickets with deprivation of that vitamin. I'd read somewhere that the British sailors were called "limeys" because they tried to carry along a supply of limes to get their Vit. C on long voyages.
But I just read that it is scurvy they get from the lack of Vitamin C and indeed do get rickets from insufficient Vit. D.
I'm pleased to have that misconception sorted out!
billyaustindillon on November 17, 2010:
Excellent article on Vitamin D we tend to take things for greated these days - important to have a well rounded diet and be exposed to sun - of course sensible exposure to avoid melanoma and skin damage.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 17, 2010:
Jim, I didn't know the higher dose was related to any type of skin rashes. Unless there is a specific reason 2000 IU is a good daily dose. Thanks for your comments.
Peggy, Eating a lot of fish and getting enough sun may be adequate with a small supplement. Thanks for your comments.
Love to Read, It is more common for women than men to be very low anyway. At least the doctor is on top of things. Thanks so much for your comment.
Loves To Read on November 17, 2010:
Great information Pam. My mum who is a type 1 diabetic is going through this now with her doctor. After a vast amount of stress she became very tired and lethargic. Her Doctor tested her and told her that she was severely lacking vitamin D. Because she was caring for her sick husband who was house bound and then her sister. She was not getting any sunlight much at all. Thanks for sharing this great information.
Love and Hugs
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 17, 2010:
I take some Vitamin D but at a much lower dosage. Will rethink the amount I should be taking. Fortunately we generally pick up some sun on our walks and like fish and dairy products. Good article Pamela! Rating it useful as I am sure it will be to many people.
FitnezzJim from Fredericksburg, Virginia on November 17, 2010:
I take 2000U a day, and tried the doctor prescribed 50000U per week. Unfortunately, every time I try the larger dose, it seems to coincide with some incidental exposure to posion ivy or mold or some other skin irritant. So now I have stuck in my head 'Big Dose' = 'ugly skin rash', and shy away from the 50000U.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 17, 2010:
JY, Thanks for the comment and at least you might be healthier!
John Young from Florence, South Carolina on November 17, 2010:
Very good information Pam. I didn't know a lot of this stuff. But, I'll still be ugly anyway... :-)
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 17, 2010:
Springboard, If it works why analyze it? You are certainly taking the right amount according to my doctor. Thanks for the comment.
Bandrocker, We do get vitamin D from sunlight, but not enough to meet all our needs. You make a good point about today's lifestyle. Thanks for your comment.
Prasetio, I very much appreciate your comments as always.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 17, 2010:
I do believe that vitamin D is really useful for our body. We need this substance to prevent some serious disease and good for body defense. Good presentation between text, picture, video and table. Thank you very much. Rating up. Take care!
brandrocker on November 17, 2010:
Interesting article. As such I have seen that today's lifestyle is not too good for health. We spend time mostly indoor. This might hinder the process of natural vitamin synthesis from Sunlight. But I am not quite sure, if it has any scientific findings.
Springboard from Wisconsin on November 17, 2010:
Excellent and interesting article. I started taking Vitamin D at 2,000 IU every day a couple of years ago after my sister sort of introduced me to the idea. For what it's worth, I do think it helps. It especially seems to help during the winter in curtailing the wintertime blues. Not sure why, but that's my take.
Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 16, 2010:
Shaz, It is a good excuse. Thanks for the comment.
Debbie, I very much appreciate your comments.
debbiesdailyviews on November 16, 2010:
I voted this up, and useful !
Fantastic info, and brilliant advice.
It's foolish to egnore this post, so thank you .
shazwellyn from Great Britain on November 16, 2010:
Umm... good excuse to go on a holiday and lap up those rays! Thanks for the information :)