What is vitamin d?

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption in bones and to improve muscle strength. Not getting enough vitamin D in childhood can slow growth or cause misshapen bones (rickets), and not getting enough vitamin D throughout life increases the risk for bone thinning (osteoporosis) in later years.

Many people can get the amount of vitamin D needed each day through food and sunlight. Vitamin D is in foods such as egg yolks, liver, saltwater fish, and vitamin D-fortified dairy products. Vitamin D also is available in supplements, often in combination with calcium.

How can you get more vitamin D?

Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • Salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These are some of the best foods to eat when you need to get more vitamin D.
  • Cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. These foods have vitamin D in small amounts.
  • Milk, soy drinks, orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and some kinds of cereal have vitamin D added to them.

Some people don't make vitamin D as well as others. They may have to take extra care in getting enough vitamin D.

Things that reduce how much vitamin D your body makes include:

  • Having dark skin.
  • Age, especially if you are older than 65.
  • Digestive problems, such as Crohn's or celiac disease.
  • Liver and kidney disease.

Some people who do not get enough vitamin D may need supplements.

How much vitamin D do you need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) every day for people ages 1 through 70. Adults 71 and older need 800 IU every day.

Why is it important to get enough vitamin D?

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Calcium keeps your bones and muscles, including your heart, healthy and strong. If your muscles don't get enough calcium, they can cramp, hurt, or feel weak. You may have long-term (chronic) muscle aches and pains.

If you don't get enough vitamin D throughout life, you have an increased chance of having thin and brittle bones (osteoporosis) in your later years. Children who don't get enough vitamin D may not grow as much as others their age. They also have a chance of getting a rare disease called rickets. It causes weak bones.

Vitamin D and calcium are added to many foods. And your body uses sunshine to make its own vitamin D.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.