Twelve Things to Know about Vitamin D

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with respect to nutrition, a set of new studies has shown that children are receiving way below their required amount of vitamin D.

What is vitamin D? Why is it important? Why aren’t kids getting enough? And what are its best food sources?

What you need to know:

1. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in food but can also be manufactured by our body after exposure to sunshine’s UV rays. fat soluble means it needs a to be consumed together with a small amount of oil/butter/lard etc… to be effectively absorbed by your body.

2. Vitamin D’s job is to help the body absorb and regulate calcium and phosphorous levels in the body.

3. Without vitamin D, our bones don’t get enough calcium and bones become thin and brittle, or don’t develop properly if you’re still a growing child.

4. In addition, vitamin D helps maintain a healthy immune system, according to some studies.

5. While in the past most people got enough vitamin D just by being outdoors, the industrial revolution and lifestyle changes it brought about have led to drastic reduction in this source for most people. Today’s children spend many an afternoon indoors with their Wii, and that has also contributed to the a decline in vitamin D “intake”.

6. Officially, adults need 200-400 IU (International Units*) of vitamin D, though after 50 years of age, the amount goes up to 600. Children need 200 IU, but a growing group of pediatricians has suggested the requirement be bumped up to 400 IU and even higher. * 1 microgram of vitamin D = 40 IU.

7. The US and other countries began fortifying milk, a very common food product, with vitamin D in the 1930′s to combat skeletal diseases such as rickets that were becoming a problem.

8. Today virtually all milk sold in the US is fortified with 100 IU (International Units) of vitamin D per cup. For children that’s 25%-50% of the daily value, depending which experts you ask.

9. Other products are also fortified with vitamin D, such as yogurts and breakfast cereals. Some sugary children’s cereals have jumped on the vitamin D fortification bandwagon, but they usually provide just 10% of the daily requirement while pumping your kids up with too much sugar.

10. The best source of vitamin D is a teaspoon of cod liver oil (1,360 IU), but most people dread just the sound of that, not to mention the taste. Herring, sardines, salmon, and tuna are also good sources but usually do not supply enough of the vitamin.

11. Some nutrition experts therefore recommend vitamin D supplements, even if you are eating healthfully.

12. There are several forms D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5, but the most relevant to nutrition are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). When used in supplement pills, D2 is derived from yeast or fungus, while D3 is from animal sources.

What to do at the supermarket:

Try walking to the supermarket if it’s a  sunny day, you may get your daily dose from just 30 minutes outdoors. Look at the vitamin D fortification in milk and other milk products, but don’t forgo other nutrition rules just to get an extra dose. If you like fish, some canned products can be a good source of vitamin D as well.

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  • cathy

    Nice overview. Your body also doesn’t produce vitamin D as well as you age. I know a few older adults (my parents and a couple of others) whose doctors have prescribed vitamin D supplements because they are deficient in vit D – despite spending a large amount of their day in the sun.

    I have also read that sunscreen can inhibit the formation of vit D in children and young adults. Some doctors are recommending sticking with the sunscreen while taking vit D supplements. Still other doctors recommend going outside for 15-30 min without sunscreen on for the vit D production and then applying sunscreen.

  • staff

    Thanks Cathy for your excellent additions.

  • Christel

    I’ve actually heard about a connection between MS (multiple sclerosis) since MS patients tend to have a vitamin D deficiency. It would be interesting to learn more about this from a good resource

    Just more reasons to absorb :)

  • ducan

    Living in Australia, I wouldn’t dare spend 30 mins in the sun everyday without sunscreen! My poor skin would roast! I maintain a healthy diet for my vit D intake and I believe that promoting standing in the sun like that to children is reckless. Perhaps 5 mins here and there during your day would be more sensible. Or you could just promote a balanced diet.

  • kc

    The vitamin D in supplements is made using GMO corn and have tested at only 9% bioavailability. That means that even if you can find a Vitamin D supplement that doesn’t add additional GMO ingredients (rare), it will still contain GMO corn. If you are allergic to corn as I am, you are forced to get all your vitamin D from natural sources and the best one is fermented cod liver oil (most sources of unfermented cod liver oil add synthetic vitamins A and D to replace the natural sources that were stripped out in processing). Since all milk (even organic) has so thoughtfully been “enriched” with GMO corn, I can no longer find milk to drink (Oh, to live in a state that allows raw milk sales!) or to make yogurt. I would imagine that anyone that has done any research on GMOs and their nasty effects on the human body would be reluctant to take a synthetic vitamin (with dubious claims of health benefits) when it comes packaged with a hefty dose of GMOs as well.

  • Dodie

    I love this comment. The “war” is over, though, and we have lost. Steve Jobs and Trump can’t even find a stitch to eat without GMOs. Our grandchildren will eat dirt until the soil clears. Blame those who let it happen, but it’s pretty much to late to stop it. Viva (unfettered) capitalism!

  • Hani_mehdi

    nice information. can save lives