Vitamin D has long been valued for its role in preventing rickets and building strong bones. Vitamin D has also been associated with the prevention and treatment of diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis and immune system disorders. The latest research shows that vitamin D is also beneficial in preventing heart disease.
A growing number of studies support the idea that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and that adding vitamin D supplements can help reduce this risk. Several large trials to learn more about this connection are underway, although there is not yet any conclusive evidence.
How Much Vitamin D do I Need?
It is well established that 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day is necessary to prevent rickets, but an overwhelming number of physicians and researchers believe this level is too low to help achieve optimal health and reduce the risk of disease. They say the Institute of Medicine (IOM) should consider revising their current vitamin D recommendations, which are below:
- 200 International Units IU per day for adults age 50 and younger
- 400 IU per day for adults aged 51 to 70 years
- 600 IU per day for adults aged 70 years.
It is not clear just how much vitamin D is needed for increased health and disease risk reduction. However, many physicians are now recommending 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU daily for most adults. Your doctor can determine how much vitamin D you need, and it is important to talk to him/her before increasing the amount of vitamin D in your diet. Too much vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, which can cause kidney stones or damage.
Best Sources of Vitamin D
The best way to start adding vitamins to your diet is through foods. However, there are few foods that contain vitamin D, and your doctor may recommend supplements to ensure you have at least the minimum recommended amount of vitamin D each day. Even if you take supplements, you should still eat a variety of foods rich in vitamin D. Many foods rich in vitamin D contain additional disease-fighting nutrients.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
|Food or Supplement
||Amount of Vitamin D (IU)
|Chinook salmon, 4 oz. cooked
|Shrimp, 4 oz. cooked
|Multiple vitamins, most brands
|Canned salmon, 3.5 oz.
|Dannon Frusion® smoothie (10 oz.)
|Tuna, light, canned in water, 3 oz.
|Soy milk, fortified, 1 cup
|Milk, 1 cup
|Orange juice, fortified, 1 cup
|Viactiv® Calcium soft chews, 1
|Cod, 4 oz. cooked
|Fortified breakfast cereals, most brands, ¾ – 1 cup
|Margarine, fortified, 1 Tbsp
|Large egg, 1
Supplements Containing Vitamin D
There are many available over-the-counter vitamin D dietary supplements. Two forms of vitamin D are used in these supplements — ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D2 is often considered a vegetarian source of vitamin D because it is derived from plants. Vitamin D3 can be obtained from synthetic or animal sources. Many practitioners prefer vitamin D3 because it is better absorbed and closer to the naturally occurring form of the vitamin in humans. However, both forms can be effective in increasing vitamin D levels in the blood.
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