Soaking Up Some Vitamin D

adults on a boat

Guest Blogger: Maria Michas, MD, MPH, FACOEM, Associate Vice President and Medical Director, Employee Health Services, Occupational Injury Care and Wellness

With summer in full effect it should be easier to get some sun exposure to help boost your intake of vitamin D, aka the “Sunshine Vitamin.” But have you ever wondered if you’re getting too little? And what’s the best way to get it?

While you are enjoying fresh air and sunshine this summer, keep in mind:

  • Vitamin D is produced by your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight, but it can also be obtained from certain foods, vitamin D fortified foods and supplements.
  • Vitamin D is important to bone health because it helps to absorb calcium, which is used to make strong bones and teeth.
  • Without enough vitamin D, only about 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium can be absorbed.
  • It prevents diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers.
  • It strengthens your immune system.

Vitamin D Deficiency – Are You at Risk?

In a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide problem. Another study was published in the journal Pediatrics. The results showed a high proportion of infants and their mothers in New England were deficient at the time of birth even though prenatal vitamins were taken.

Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:

  • If you have low vitamin D intake and little or no sun exposure (due to winter season, high latitude, sun avoidance, etc.)
  • If you have darker skin pigmentation (e.g., African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians) – increased skin pigmentation reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D
  • If you are obese
  • If you are an older adult

If you believe that you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency, please talk with your doctor to determine if you need a screening blood test.

Getting What You Need

Recommended daily dietary intake for vitamin D

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ages 1 to 70 600 IU (international units)
Ages 70+ 800 IU

Vitamin D from Food

Some foods are good sources for the vitamin, including:

  • Fatty fish (e.g., tuna, salmon, mackerel)
  • Fish liver oil
  • Small amounts are found in beef liver, egg yolk and cheese
  • Fortified foods and beverages (e.g., milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, margarine)
  • Vitamin D2 and D3 supplements

Vitamin D from the Sun

You can meet some of your vitamin D requirement from sun exposure, but keep in mind:

  • The NIH recommends approximately five to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm at least twice per week to the face, arms, legs and back without sunscreen.
  • The season, time of day, cloud cover, smog and sunscreen can affect the amount of vitamin D that gets produced by the skin.

Related: Read 5 Steps to Help Avoid Osteoporosis for information on ways to help keep your bones strong.

Join the conversation. Do you know if you are vitamin D deficient? Do you get enough vitamin D daily?  

  3 comments for “Soaking Up Some Vitamin D

  1. Judith Knight
    August 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    This is such an important vitamin; there needs to be more outreach regarding it’s importance. However, I do not see any warnings about excessive amounts mentioned here. There are always those who think that more of whatever is beneficial is better.

  2. Scott
    August 8, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Vit D3 is what should be taken as Vit D2 is not absorbed by the body, its a total waste to take Vit D2

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