Benefits of Vitamin D


What is vitamin D?

Commonly referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is necessary to achieve and maintain optimal health. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the body makes vitamin D. The body cannot absorb calcium without vitamin D; therefore, vitamin D is essential for desirable bone health.


The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to 12 months of age, 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for those over 70 years. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are recommended to absorb 600 IU (15 mcg) daily. No more than 4000 IU should be consumed daily, unless ordered by a health care professional. Consult a health care provider to determine the best dosage for a specific condition.

Benefits of vitamin D

Proper levels of vitamin D in the body provide many health benefits. Not only is vitamin D necessary for the absorption of calcium, but it also provides various other health benefits. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Where to get vitamin D

Vitamin D is manufactured on the skin during sun exposure. The dangers of too much sun exposure and the fear of skin cancer lead people to use sunscreen or cover up to avoid the ultraviolet rays. Unfortunately, while these protective measures are effective in keeping one safe from the dangers of the sun, they can inadvertently cause a vitamin D deficiency.

Although vitamin D is not commonly found in food, it can be obtained from fortified milk, cereal, orange juice, and in certain fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, and sardines). However, the amount of vitamin D in these food sources is inadequate for the body's needs. In order to obtain the proper levels of vitamin D, sun exposure or a vitamin D supplement is usually needed.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It is estimated that over 40% of Americans may have low levels of vitamin D. Individuals most at risk include older adults, pregnant women, African-Americans, obese people, and those with chronic kidney disease or musculoskeletal disease.

While a mild vitamin D deficiency may not cause any symptoms, a moderate or heavy vitamin D deficiency may cause bone pain and muscle weakness. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Osteomalacia (loss of bone mineral content, bone pain, muscle weakness, and soft bones) is often treated with vitamin D. Children can develop a vitamin D deficiency called rickets, in which vitamin D is used to prevent or treat. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to the following:

Excessive vitamin D

Too much vitamin D can also be harmful. Symptoms of too much vitamin D include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Kidney problems
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

A health care professional can order a simple blood test to determine the level of vitamin D in the body.