The importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for building and maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscle. New research, however, is discovering that Vitamin D benefits all parts of the body. It keeps the immune system functioning normally, helping the body resist some types of disease.
What happens if my child doesn’t get enough Vitamin D?
If your growing child does not get enough Vitamin D, bones may not develop correctly (Rickets).
What happens if I, as an adult, don’t get enough Vitamin D?
If you have a Vitamin D deficiency, you can develop soft bones or lose bone mass, which can lead to having fragile bones (osteoporosis). Some individuals with low levels of Vitamin D may be more prone to illness.
Worldwide, many people are deficient in this all-important nutrient. A recent study indicated that 70 percent of young people are considered low in Vitamin D. Children most likely to have low levels tend to be teens and pre-teens, African-American, female, obese, those who drink milk less than twice a week, or spend four or more hours weekly in front of a TV or computer screen.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
Recent research indicates that Americans need more Vitamin D than we originally thought. Here are new recommendations:
Life Stage Vitamin D (IU/Day)
0 – 1 years old 400
Children and teens 600
Adults (to age 70) 600
Adults (over age 71) 800
Women who are 600
pregnant or breastfeeding
What are good sources of Vitamin D?
You can get Vitamin D from three sources – food, supplements and sunlight.
Only a few foods, such as salmon, eggs and sardines, naturally contain Vitamin D.
Milk is fortified with Vitamin D. All fat levels of milk have the same amount of Vitamin D – whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent and skim.
Many brands of yogurt and cheese are fortified with Vitamin D. Butter or margarine can be fortified as well.
Soy, rice and almond milk are fortified with Vitamin D.
Some cereals, bread and orange juice are fortified with Vitamin D.
You can tell if a product is fortified with Vitamin D by looking at the Nutrition Fact food label. It is mid-way down on a food label where the Vitamin Content is listed. Vitamin D is not required to be listed, but on fortified foods, it usually is. You will not see how many IUs the product contains, however, you will see a “percentage” of the daily value that is needed.
When you are exposed to sunlight, your skin produces Vitamin D. Most people get some Vitamin D from sunlight; however, people in the northern United States from October – April are not able to make significant amounts of Vitamin D due to the position and weakness of the sun. The latest dietary recommendations assume minimal sun exposure. In the late spring through early fall, you can make enough Vitamin D from 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week.
If you cannot get enough Vitamin D from your diet or the sun, consider taking supplements. The average complete multivitamin supplement contains 400 IU of Vitamin D; however, you must check to see how much is your particular vitamin.
If you or your children are Vitamin D deficient, your healthcare provider may suggest a dose to you that is above the standard daily allowance. Please talk to your doctor about recommended doses.