Vitamin D is well known for contributing to strong, healthy bones. Did you know that it also contributes to the health of many other parts of the body? Vitamin D is important to your immune system, muscles, heart, brain and respiratory system. It can help fight infection, keep your cells communicating properly and even fight cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with aches and pains, tiredness and frequent infections, and it has been linked to a number of health problems including:
- Bone Conditions (e.g. rickets and osteomalacia)
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
While most vitamins are obtained through the diet, the best way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight. Your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D each day with 15 minutes-2 hours of exposure to sunlight. The daily amount of sunlight needed for your body to produce Vitamin D varies by:
- Skin tone – pale skin makes Vitamin D more quickly than dark skin
- Age – our bodies have a harder time producing Vitamin D as we age
- Location – the closer you live to the equator, the easier it is for your body to produce Vitamin D
- Altitude –Vitamin D is produced more quickly at high altitudes when you’re closer to the sun
- Weather – our bodies produce less Vitamin D on cloudy days than on sunny days
- Air pollution – your body will make less Vitamin D if you live in a highly polluted area
- Time of day – your body makes more Vitamin D if when your skin is exposed in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point
- Skin Exposure – the more skin you expose, the more Vitamin D you produce
Keep in mind that high sun exposure can increase risks for skin cancer. Sun screen and protective clothing/hats are recommended for protection from the sun, even though reduced sun exposure may inhibit the body from producing Vitamin D as quickly.
In the fast-paced world we live in today, the average American does not consistently get exposure to the amount of sunlight needed to produce optimal levels of Vitamin D. If you suspect you’re not getting enough sun exposure for your body to produce Vitamin D, you can get vitamin D through diet and supplementation. The recommended dietary allowance (i.e. the average daily intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy people) is 600 IU. Foods high in Vitamin D include milk (120 IU per 8 ounce serving), salmon (450 IU per 3 ounce serving), canned tuna (150 IU per 3 ounce serving) and fortified orange juice (140 IU per 8 ounce serving).
Additionally, the Vitamin D Council recommends Vitamin D supplementation as described in the chart below:
|Vitamin D recommendations||Vitamin D Council|
|Children||1,000 IU/day per 25 lbs of body weight|
According to the Vitamin D Council, Vitamin D toxicity can occur, but it is rare and unlikely: for example, a person would need to take a daily dose of 40,000 IU for a couple of months or longer to experience toxicity, or take a very large one-time dose such as 70,000 + IU. If you’re concerned about Vitamin D deficiency or toxicity, ask your doctor to test the level in your body.
Author: Brooke Distel, DTR, Dietetic Intern and graduate student
Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, MPH, RD, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, email@example.com
Brinkman, P. (2016). Keeping Sun Safe. Ohioline. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hsc-7.
National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (2016). Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.
Vitamin D Council (2017). About Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.