Eat a Diet Rich in Vitamin D
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Eat a Diet Rich in Vitamin D

Vitamin D image

Here's Why:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It helps the body absorb calcium and plays a crucial role in the growth and maintenance of strong, healthy bones. In children, adequate vitamin D is important for the prevention of rickets. And in adults, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a greater incidence of hip fracture. Increased intakes of vitamin D, on the other hand, have been associated with less bone loss in older women. This has led some researchers to believe that vitamin D supplementation may help prevent fractures resulting from osteoporosis.

Recent research suggests that vitamin D may play a role in a number of other conditions, as well. More research is needed to confirm the findings, though. For example, vitamin D deficiency has been related to muscle weakness and pain. In one study, patients with low back pain received high doses of vitamin D for three months, which resulted in significant improvement of their symptoms.

Also, there is some research to suggest that this supplement may play a role in cancer prevention. Vitamin D receptors have been found in breast and prostate tissue, implying that such a link does exist. Additionally, there is some evidence hinting that low levels may play a role in the development of high blood pressure. There is also preliminary research suggesting that long-term vitamin D supplementation decreases the risk of multiple sclerosis.

People who are at a high risk for vitamin D deficiencies are the elderly, those who get minimal sun exposure, or those who use sunscreen whenever outside. Also, people with conditions that may impact intestinal absorption, such as Crohn's disease, are at risk.

The recommended intakes for vitamin D are:

Age (years)Adequate Intake

Infants that are breastfed only may require addition supplementation with Vitamin D starting within two first months of life. The recommended dose of vitamin D in normal infants to prevent the deficiency is 200 units per day. Requirements for pregnant women are the same as for healthy adults. Some believe that pregnant mothers should take more vitamin D than recommended. However, since there is an increased risk of vitamin D toxicity with increased intake, such recommendations need to be discussed individually with a physician.

Here's How:

Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in some foods, but the main sources are milk and sunlight. The ultraviolet rays of the sun react with cholesterol present on the skin and create previtamin D3. This compound goes through a series of reactions involving the kidneys and the liver, and the final product is vitamin D.

Most people's bodies can manufacture enough vitamin D with 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week. However, this synthesis is affected by age, season, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and skin pigmentation.

Other food sources of vitamin D include:

FoodServing size Vitamin D content
Cod liver oil1 tablespoon1,360
Salmon, cooked3½ ounces360
Mackerel, cooked3½ ounces345
Sardines, canned in oil3½ ounces270
Milk, vitamin D fortified1 cup98
Margarine, fortified1 tablespoon60
Liver, beef, cooked3½ ounces30
Egg1 large25

Tips for Increasing Your Vitamin D Intake

  • If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains vitamin D.
  • Eat fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, two to three times per week.
  • Drink vitamin D-fortified milk.
  • Get sun exposure, but be careful to watch for sunburn. Sunlight is a major cause of skin cancer. Fifteen summer minutes of sun exposure to face and arms will allow most persons to synthesize adequate vitamin D and minimize the risk of skin damage. In most northern climates, winter sun is too obstructed and low in the sky to allow vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Also, few people go outside without covering much of their body with clothes. In the winter, vitamin D supplements or multiple servings of milk and fatty fish are necessary for good health.


American Dietetic Association

Food and Nutrition Information Center
US Department of Agriculture


Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

Dietitians of Canada


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Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health website.Available at: . Accessed August 25, 2005.

Giovannoni G, Ebers G.Multiple sclerosis: the environment and causation. Curr Opin Neurol. 2007;20:261-268.

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Munger KL, Levin LI, Hollis BW, Howard NS, Ascherio A. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. JAMA. 2006;296:2832-2838.

The Nutrition Desk Reference. Keats Publishing; 1995.

Last reviewed July 2007 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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