Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fatty tissue.

Function

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that you must have for normal bone formation.

In childhood, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from your diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children.

Food Sources

The body makes vitamin D when the skin is directly exposed to the sun. That is why it is often called the "sunshine" vitamin. Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way.

Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. As a result, many foods are fortified with vitamin D. Fortified means that vitamins have been added to the food.

Fatty fish (such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel) are among the best sources of vitamin D.

Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.

Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. Some mushrooms you buy in the store have higher vitamin D content because they have been exposed to ultraviolet light.

Most milk in the United States is fortified with 400 IU vitamin D per quart. Most of the time, foods made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are not fortified.

Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals. It is also added to some brands of soy beverages, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine. Check the nutrition fact panel on the food label.

SUPPLEMENTS

It can be very hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. As a result, some people may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D found in supplements and fortified foods comes in two different forms:

  • D2 (ergocalciferol)
  • D3 (cholecalciferol)

Recommendations

Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times weekly is enough to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. The sun needs to shine on the skin of your face, arms, back, or legs (without sunscreen). Because exposure to sunlight is a risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun.

People who do not live in sunny places may not make enough vitamin D. Skin that is exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy days, shade, and having dark-colored skin also cut down on the amount of vitamin D the skin makes.

Levels below 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL) are too low for bone or overall health, and levels above 125 nmol/L (50 ng/mL) are probably too high. Levels of 50 nmol/L or above (20 ng/mL or above) are enough for most people.

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