Vitamin D – What’s the Right Amount for Me?


Vitamin D is an interesting nutrient. It is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in food, but can also be manufactured by our body after exposure to sunshine’s UV rays. Fat soluble means it needs a to be consumed together with a small amount of oil/butter/lard to be effectively absorbed by the body.

Vitamin D’s job is to help the body regulate calcium and phosphorous levels in the body. Without vitamin D, our bones don’t absorb up enough calcium from the bloodstream. Without proper amounts of vitamin D, bones become thin and brittle, or don’t develop properly in children.

Are Americans getting enough vitamin D?

The FDA thinks not, and starting next year, food manufacturers will be required to label vitamin D content on nutrition labels. From past experience, this will encourage food companies to fortify their foods with vitamin D. Today, virtually all milk sold in the US is fortified. Expect many more foods to follow.

In the medical community, there is controversy among experts as to the proper amount of vitamin D levels in the body. According to the Institute of Health (IOM) levels of 20 ng/mL (nanograms per mililiter) or higher are acceptable. However, the Endocrine Society issued a report suggesting that the minimum should be at least 30 ng/mL, and since measurements are imprecise, the minimal measured value should be 40 ng/mL. On the other hand, a recent opinion piece published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine, and written by some of the same scientists from the IOM, recommend that the minimal level that would require some intervention should be just 12.5 ng/ML. (The 20 ng/mL value is “acceptable” but 12.5 ng/mL is “minimal”).

While scientists are bickering, what can you do to reduce your risk of fractures and bone problems?

  • If you are in a risk group, get tested for vitamin D levels. People at risk include post-menopausal women, people who had gastric bypass procedures, suffer from celiac and other nutrient absorption related maladies, and people with dark skin whose body is more effective at blocking sunshine
  • If you are not in a risk group, don’t worry about this too much
  • You can increase your vitamin D intake by getting a daily does of sunshine with exposed skin (not just your face)
  • You can get vitamin D from foods such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines. The brave can opt for cod liver oil.
  • Milk and other foods are fortified with vitamin D, so that’s also an option
  • Lastly, you can resort to supplements.

Do you know your vitamin D levels?

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