Nutrition Articles

How to Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Important Reasons to Soak Up the Sunshine Vitamin

When is a vitamin not really a vitamin? When it's vitamin D! The "sunshine" vitamin, aptly named because sunlight is a source of it, is actually a hormone. Vitamin D is currently receiving a lot of attention and research regarding its role in various diseases. Because it isn't found in many foods, and people tend to slather on sunscreen (which blocks your body's ability to make vitamin D from the sun) or spend most of the day indoors, many are wondering if their intake of vitamin D is sufficient.

Why Vitamin D Matters
A report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicates that there is strong scientific evidence showing that vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D then helps to deposit these minerals in your skeleton and teeth, making them stronger and healthier. Therefore, vitamin D helps prevent the fractures associated with osteoporosis, the bone deformation of rickets, and the muscle weakness and bone aches and pains of osteomalacia (the softening of bones).

But a deficiency of vitamin D may go beyond bones—it may be related to a variety of health problems. Because it's a hormone, and your body is full of receptors for this hormone, it may play a role in the prevention of other ailments. After analyzing more than 1,000 studies the IOM believes that there is not substantial evidence to support vitamin D's role in other diseases. But preliminary research indicates the importance of meeting one’s basic daily needs for vitamin D is important for overall health and well-being. A lack of vitamin D has been blamed for a plethora of health problems, but more targeted research should continue for diseases such as:
  • Cancer. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D has an anti-cancer benefit. It may stop the growth and progression of cancer cells and be beneficial during cancer treatment, too.
  • Hormonal problems. Vitamin D influences the functions of insulin, rennin, serotonin and estrogen—hormones involved with health conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression and premenstrual syndrome.
  • Obesity. Some research shows that a vitamin D deficiency can interfere with the "fullness" hormone leptin, which signals the brain that you are full and should stop eating.
  • Inflammation. Vitamin D may help control the inflammation involved with periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • Weakened immune system. Vitamin D may play a role in a strengthening your immune system, especially in autoimmune disorders (when the body attacks itself) like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

    I was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer and my doctor said my vitamin D level was low. I am taking a prescription strength Vitamin D tablet once a week! I haven't been on it long enough to see any difference. atc medical - 11/25/2014 4:12:28 PM
  • The latest information today said that low vitamin is correlated with Alzheimer's. Enough for me to start taking it. (and I have an aversion to taking even an asprin..) - 8/6/2014 11:41:03 PM
  • The question becomes: are eggs really good for the body? - 2/22/2014 11:06:30 AM
  • Even though I eat many of the foods listed, take a multi vitamin and D3, 2000 iu, I was tested low in "D". My Droctor increased my "D" to 4000 iu's a day. I do have RA and stay out of sun, don't want skin cancer just to get vitamin D.
    I never take vitamins or supplements before checking with my Doctor.
    Sometimes ones body doesn't absorb certain minerals or vitamins as it should. And one doesn't want to have toxic levels by getting too much.
    As far as D2 or ,D3, the bodys preferred form of "D" is D3.. - 1/30/2014 11:42:01 AM
  • This article said " How to get your daily dose of vitamin D " No where not one place did I see a source for it? - 6/7/2013 10:46:52 AM
  • I do monitor my vitamin D intake, and take supplements when needed. Unfortunately, the Nutrition Information for most of the foods listed in this article (i.e., salmon, tuna, and mackerel) does not include any Vitamin D data. It would be nice if this could be corrected. - 4/19/2013 10:49:11 PM
  • I hate to be a grammar Nazi, but this article should have had better proofreading; obvious mistakes are kind of distracting to some readers. They make the author and site look unprofessional. - 4/5/2013 10:35:06 AM
    This article is very misleading. Vitamin D3 and D2 are not interchangeable. Please check your facts through an Endocrinologist. The advice in this article is incorrect and could cause serious problems with D3 deficient patients. - 4/4/2013 11:27:04 AM
    Great article. The one thing I would caution is most doctors just put people on supplements because of their age or background instead of taking the test. Problem is, supplements typically have a VERY low absorption rate (~20%). So the doctor says you are fine because you are taking a supplement and they never actually find out if you are fine. Statistically, you likely still need the test and a diet review. Supplementation is rarely a substitute for diet. - 4/4/2013 10:08:57 AM
  • The article needs to be corrected re the acceptable levels of Vitamin D. According to my latest blood test taken March 2013, on the blood test results form it's 30 to 100 ng/ml. As I was at 33.5, my doctor advised me to supplement my diet to bring it up more. - 4/4/2013 9:22:15 AM
  • I didn't realize that vitamin D could be stored in toxic levels. I will definitely try to pay attention to my intake since I do consume a supplement. - 1/1/2013 5:32:03 PM
  • I think I will be getting a Vitamen D test again in November. I took one in Feburary last year and I was just below and took an over the counter supplement. I suspected it for years because I suffer form some serious seasonal depression and low engergy during the winter months (Nov-Apr) here in South East WI. I walk 2 miles everyday so from Apr-Oct I feel pretty good because I get at least 40 minutes or more of sun exposure wiht no sun screen. It isn't until about this time of year (end of September) that I notice my engery starting to slow down. Then right after Christmas I get cranky tired, depressed and well just want to sleep all day. I am gonna take the test again this year. I think I will do once before winter, in the middle and right after, and then in the middle of summer. - 9/19/2012 10:09:43 AM
  • CATLADY1957
    I asked my doctor a couple of years ago about the blood test for vitamin D and he told me that the test was over $100, and , "You are past 50, you are deficient." He recommended Caltrate with D3 by name (his preference) to bring me up to par. Like anything else, it works if you make yourself take the supplements (they are to be taken with food for best absorption) I forget. - 8/4/2012 7:07:01 PM
  • VITAMIN D IS LINKED TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY BECAUSE OUR KIDS DON'T GO OUTSIDE QND PLAY ANY MORE! When I was a kid, our parents were always saying, "Go outside and play!" I even had q friend who's mother locked her qnd her siblings out of the house from 9 am until noon, and from 12:30 until five pm! No sunshine plus no playing equals fat kids! Duh!!! - 8/4/2012 11:59:40 AM
  • Good article ( from 2009) and Yes, Outdated. Supplements are essential. You can not get enough vitamin D from diet. As a Naturopath I suggest all my clients take at least 1000 IUs per day. - 8/4/2012 7:05:20 AM

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