How much vitamin D do I need?

Many adults don’t get the amount of vitamin D they should. But how much is the right amount?

Dear Mayo Clinic: I have heard different recommendations from different sources regarding vitamin D. One doctor told my husband that everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere should take a vitamin D supplement every day, even in the summer. What do you recommend?

A: Understanding how much vitamin D you need can be confusing because there are different recommendations about how much vitamin D adults should get. Using the recommendations that fall on the low end, many adults don’t get the amount of vitamin D they should. Because few foods contain vitamin D naturally, eating foods fortified with vitamin D and taking a supplement may be beneficial.

Vitamin D is important because it helps your body sustain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus. Because it works as a key that allows your body to absorb calcium, vitamin D plays a critical role in forming and maintaining healthy bones. It also helps keep your muscles, nerves and immune system healthy.

Research suggests that consistently getting enough vitamin D can significantly lower the risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Low vitamin D also is associated with falls, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. However, an association does not mean low vitamin D causes these conditions, or that taking a vitamin D supplement will adequately prevent or treat them.

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Vitamin D is found in some foods, such as egg yolks, cheese, cod liver oil, beef liver and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. But the amount of vitamin D in these foods is quite small. In the U.S., many people get the bulk of their dietary vitamin D from foods that are fortified with it, including milk, cereals and some brands of yogurt and…

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