Vitamin D is considered a fat-soluble vitamin and nutrient, which means it is absorbed in the stomach (and throughout the body) and aids in the absorption of calcium.  The primary role of vitamin D, along with calcium, is to help the body to produce healthy bones. Although it is not present in many foods, vitamin D can easily be obtained through sun exposure and through supplements.

The Traditional Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D comes in two supplemental strains: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 occurs in fortified milk and was first used in the 1930s as a replacement for cod oil in treating rickets in children in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Milk was infused with 100 IU per eight ounces. D3 is more supplemental and prescribed at the rate of 800 – 1000 IU to children and adults who are not getting enough exposure to the sun.1

What is Vitamin D Used For?

Vitamin D may have numerous benefits to the body, including the following: Promotes Healthy Bone Growth, Prevents Rickets in Children, Deters Osteoporosis, Assists the Immune System, Promotes Cell Growth, May Help Prevent Colon, Prostate and Breast Cancer.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Other than the well-known fact that the nutrient promotes healthy bone growth and prevents rickets in children(2) vitamin D is beneficial in other ways.  It can help older adults, especially older women, to deter osteoporosis. Scientists suggest that the nutrient can also assist the body’s immune system, changes in cell growth, reduce inflammation, and even aid in the prevention of colon, prostate and breast cancer. And for those with darker skin (or of African descent), or those who live in northern or mountainous climates or areas affected by climate change where the sun’s light isn’t as prevalent or reduced during winter, vitamin D in supplement form is useful.

How to Use Vitamin D

There are many ways in which to take a supplement. Some come in pill form, liquid form, or mixed with food. The important point is to get enough of the supplement so that it benefits one’s health. With Vitamin D, the delivery system doesn’t matter that much. In a recent study, scientists distributed a 25,000 IU single dose of the nutrient with corn oil, whole milk, and fat-free milk. They found the rates of absorption by the body were the same. Monounsaturated fats, in fact, found in beef and oils like olive oil were the best delivery systems for vitamin D. But if the nutrient is taken with food or without food, it doesn’t seem to matter. As with any vitamin or nutrient deficiency, the symptoms can be wide-ranging and, perhaps, hard to pinpoint. Some of them may result because of other health problems. As for symptoms linked to depleted Vitamin D, healthy bone growth in children, osteoporosis in women and general muscle weakness in all adults are some of the major symptoms. Misdiagnosis of these can occur as fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, fatigue and other illnesses. Since vitamin D is a nutrient that is absorbed by the body, the causes of a nutrient deficiency could stem from various factors. Symptoms could be kidney or liver disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease. For people who have elected to have gastric bypass surgery where part of the stomach or intestines are removed, and people considered obese with a body mass index of 30 or above, Vitamin D absorption is inhibited. Other factors could be age, mobility, skin color, breast milk and certain medications.

Foods that Contain Vitamin D

Short of getting a recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through sun exposure or pharmaceutical supplements, the best way to obtain a daily amount is through food. Although fortified milk contains the most easily digestible way of doing so, there are other foods (but not many) that contain vitamin D in varying amounts. Chances are that even if you ate these foods on a daily or weekly basis, you would still need to supplement your diet between sun exposure, milk or other means. That said, here is a table showing foods that contain various levels of the nutrient. Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces: 566Salmon (sockeye) cooked, 3 ounces: 477Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 154 Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup: 137Milk, vitamin fortified, 1 cup: 115-124Yogurt, fortified with 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin D, 6 ounces: 80=Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines: 46Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces: 42Egg yolk, 1 large: 41Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce: 6 There’s no questioning that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and support of one’s immune system. In most cases, if you are having milk every day as well as getting moderate sun exposure, your levels are probably ok. If not, and you are feeling fatigued or experiencing some other health issues, a daily, easy to obtain supplement can help. If you’re unsure what you need or how much you need to take, you can always consult your family doctor.

Citations and Sources

1. Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(1):CD000980. [PubMed] 2. Douglas R, Hemilä H. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. PLoS Med. 2005;2(6):e168; quiz e217. [PubMed] 3. Li Y, Schellhorn H. New developments and novel therapeutic perspectives for vitamin C. J Nutr. 2007;137(10):2171-2184. [PubMed] 4. Carr A, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107. [PubMed] 5. Osganian S, Stampfer M, Rimm E, et al. Vitamin C and risk of coronary heart disease in women. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003;42(2):246-252. [PubMed] 6. Mayersohn M. Vitamin C bioavailability. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1992;Spec No:446-449. [PubMed] 7. Schleicher R, Carroll M, Ford E, Lacher D. Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(5):1252-1263. [PubMed] 8. Lykkesfeldt J, Michels A, Frei B. Vitamin C. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(1):16-18. [PMC]

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