Many refer to vitamin D as the "sunshine vitamin" because the easiest way to get the recommended daily intake for vitamin D is through the sun. Current research shows vitamin D plays a potential role in the risk reduction of many diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. It is also well known that vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health. The problem? The majority of American's fall short of the daily recommendation for vitamin D intake.

How is vitamin D intake assessed?

Vitamin D status is assessed through a simple blood test. Sufficient levels of vitamin D in the blood range from 20-80 nanograms of 25-hydroxy vitamin D per milliliter (ng/ml) of blood.

What is the recommendation for vitamin D intake?

The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU per day of vitamin D3. The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU per day for people between 1 and 70 years old and 800 IU per day for anyone over 71 years old.

You may have noticed the two recommendations are very different. The recommendation by the Institute of Medicine is based upon the ideal blood level for vitamin D being 20 ng/ml whereas The Vitamin D Council's is based on an ideal blood level for vitamin D of 50 ng/ml with deficiencies starting at 40 ng/ml.

What are the dietary sources of vitamin D?

Dietary sources of vitamin D include salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk or yogurt, fortified orange juice and fortified breakfast cereals.

Is it possible to get too much vitamin D?

It is possible, but it is extremely rare. Vitamin D intake would need to be at least 10,000 IU/day or more. Most vitamin D toxicity cases are due to extremely high doses of vitamin D (an example would be reaching 50,000 IU/day).

Is a supplement okay?

Yes! Vitamin D3 is the preferred vitamin D supplement because it is broken down and utilized by the body most efficiently. Daily multivitamins can also provide you with some vitamin D.

Can I get the amount of vitamin D I need from the sun?

Yes! Fifteen to 20 minutes of sun exposure per day (without sunscreen) can help your body produce as much as 20,000 IU's. The more sun exposure your skin has the better. Therefore, it is best to expose a large area of skin such as your back to the sun instead of just your arms and legs.

Can I get the same amount of vitamin D from the sun in the winter?

Depending on where you live, you can still get vitamin D from the sun just not as much. The closer to the equator you live, the more likely you are to get enough vitamin D from the sun in the winter time. The further north you go, the more likely you are to need an additional vitamin D supplement in the winter time because the body does not get as much sun exposure and the sun is not as close to the earth in the winter time making the sun exposure you do get, not very effective for producing vitamin D.

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