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Revisiting Vitamin D

Revisiting Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential to help your body absorb calcium. Your body needs calcium in order to build strong bones and teeth. Children who do not get enough vitamin D are at risk for Rickets. Rickets is a disorder that affects the bones, causing them to soften, become misshapen, and break easily. Rickets can cause growth retardation, bone pain, and muscle weakness. It can also cause dental problems (cavities). Adults with vitamin D deficiency are at risk for osteoporosis (weak/thin bones) and osteomalacia (weak bone and muscles). Vitamin D deficiency may increase a person's risk for certain cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Those at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency include: breastfed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, dark-skinned individuals, people with fat malabsorption (diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease), people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and the obese.

Your body creates vitamin D after you are exposed to sunlight. Sunlight stimulates the conversion of a naturally occurring compound in the skin to an active (usable) form of the vitamin. 10 minutes of sunshine 3- 4 times per week may be enough to help your body create the vitamin D it needs.

Children from birth to 18 years of age need 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Breastfed babies may need a prescription vitamin supplement with vitamin D (from your physician) because human milk only has a small amount of vitamin D. Once the child is weaned, he/she should consume > 1 liter/day of vitamin D fortified formula or whole milk. Always ask your physician before giving your child any vitamin supplements.

Adults need at least the following amounts of vitamin D:

  • Under 50 years of age: 200 - 400 IU daily
  • 50 - 70 years of age: 400 - 600 IU daily
  • Over 70 years of age: 600 - 800 IU daily

Children and adults who do not get any sunshine may need 800 - 1000 IU daily.

Foods such as fish, fish oil, eggs, and cheese naturally contain vitamin D. You can purchase vitamin D fortified milk, orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and cereal. Vitamin D supplements are available over the counter or by prescription.