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New Update Encourages Increase in Vitamin D

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In 1997, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a new way to look at Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) by creating the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) system. Since that time, the DRIs for essential nutrients have remained the same. They serve as a guide for healthy eating and provide health professionals like Registered Dietitians with a framework for use when meeting with individuals for dietary evaluation and counseling. Governmental agencies use DRIs as reference for things such as nutrition labeling or setting school meal standards.

The IOM (Institutes of Medicine) was asked by the United States and Canadian governments to evaluate scientific data and health outcome research related to calcium and vitamin D. In response, the IOM and their evaluation committee reviewed nearly one thousand published studies and scientific testimonies and issued their report last month. While the IOM report confirmed that most Americans and Canadians select foods and supplements that supply adequate amounts of both calcium and vitamin D, they did issue updated recommendations for vitamin D. To reduce risks of potential harmful effects related to excessive amounts of the nutrients, safe upper level intake recommendations were also shared. So what do these findings mean for you?

During the last decade, there have been many conflicting studies and reports related to additional health benefits that calcium and vitamin D might provide as well as how much is truly needed for health. In reviewing scientific studies and reports, the IOM found varied, inconclusive and unreliable results related to health outcomes for these nutrients. This perhaps means that calcium and vitamin D will not specifically influence cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes outcomes. There may not be improved outcomes in physical performance, reduced incidence of preeclampsia or improved reproductive outcomes with an increased intake of these nutrients. More research in these areas may produce different recommendations in the future. However, the IOM did confirm through a strong body of evidence that both vitamin D and calcium are in fact important in promoting bone growth and maintaining bone mass.


Surveys in both the United States and Canada suggest girls between the ages of 9-18 do not consume enough calcium and postmenopausal women taking supplements may be getting too much. Consuming too little calcium during adolescence can limit bone growth and mass while too much later in life can increase risks for kidney stones. Neither situation is ideal for optimal health and well-being.

The previously recommended amount of calcium for male and female adults, ages 19-50, was 1,000 milligrams daily. The amount increased to 1,200 milligrams daily for those over age 51. The new report confirms a continuation of this recommendation (and indicates a need of 1,300 mg for girls age 9-18). It also adds a safe daily upper intake level is 2,500 mg for individuals, ages 19-50, and 2,000 mg for those over the age of 51.

When seeking to boost calcium intake, keep these tips in mind.

  • Add beans to soups, chili, and pasta dishes.

  • Grate low-fat cheese over soups and salads.

  • Enjoy a smoothie made with yogurt .

  • Use milk instead of water in soups, breads, sauces, or salad dressings.

  • Add milk to tea or coffee in the morning.

  • Try plain yogurt as a vegetable dip.

  • Stir some nuts into a yogurt cup as a snack.

  • Include leafy vegetables in baked casseroles such as lasagna.

  • Buy juices and cereals fortified with calcium.

  • Drink skim milk instead of soda at lunch.

  • Eat hot oatmeal made with milk for breakfast.

  • Snack on crunchy broccoli instead of potato chips.

  • Substitute plain low-fat yogurt for recipes that call for sour cream.

  • Treat yourself to pudding made with skim milk for dessert.

  • Take a daily supplement, available in capsules or chewable tablets.
Vitamin D

Unlike calcium, Vitamin D not only comes from dietary choices but also through skin synthesis as result of sunlight exposure. Since sun exposure and the ability of the body to synthesize it will vary based on many factors, the committee assumed minimal synthesis contribution when establishing vitamin D DRIs. The report outlines new RDA recommendations for vitamin D to be 600 IU for individuals to the age of 70. Since older adults may have more difficulty with synthesis from changing bodies due to aging, people over the age of 71 should aim for 800 IU per day. This is a slight increase from the previous DRI recommendations for vitamin D which were 200 IU for individuals 19-50 years old, 400 IU for those aged 51-70 and 600 IU for those over age 71. They also provided an upper level intake recommendation for safety against any potential kidney or heart damage. Unless specifically advised by a medical provider, individuals should not consume more than 4,000 IU's per day.

Some vitamin D experts question the new recommendations since they are the same for a baby or pregnant woman as for a middle aged man. However, most health professionals and governmental agencies will begin using these new recommendations immediately. Health professionals and Registered Dietitians suggest the new vitamin D requirements may be tough to meet through diet alone. Even milk drinkers like me would struggle to fit six cups a day into their diet to meet the estimated needs from one food source. There is the practice of our grandparents youth before fortification was available that included a tablespoon of cod liver oil (1,360 IU) each day (before considering this approach please talk with your medical provider because of fish oil's vitamin A content and possible toxicity). Since most of us are not interested in taking that route, other strategies are necessary.

Meeting the increased vitamin D recommendations from food alone will require a focused approach. Fortified sources like milk and soy beverages, orange juice, eggs, and cereals, as well as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna would need to be regularly included in meal and snack selections. Here are some vitamin D food specifics to help you with your meal planning.

  • Salmon (3.5 oz cooked serving) provides 360 IU

  • Mackerel (3.5 oz cooked serving) provides 345 IU

  • Canned Sardines (1.75 oz oil packed, drained) provides 250 IU

  • Canned Tuna (3 oz serving, drained) provides 200 IU

  • Fortified Milk (1 cup serving) provides 100 IU

  • Fortified Soy Beverage (1 cup serving) provides 100 IU

  • Fortified Orange Juice (1 cup serving) provides 100 IU

  • Fortified Yogurt (6 oz serving) provides between 60-80 IU

  • Pudding made with fortified milk (1/2 cup) provides 50 IU

  • Fortified Ready-to-eat Cereal (3/4 to 1 cup serving) provides between 40-100 IU depending on brand

  • Fortified Margarine (1 tablespoon serving) provides about 60 IU

  • Egg (1 whole) provides 41 IU

  • Beef liver (3.5 oz cooked serving) provides 15 IU

  • Swiss Cheese (1 oz serving) provides only 12 IU
Be sure you are checking food labels since not all products are fortified with vitamin D at the same level or serving size. If you feel your diet will not be able to support the increased vitamin D recommendations, it is best to talk with your medical provider before beginning a supplementation regimen. Knowing your vitamin D status as a starting point will allow you and your medical provider to determine if your goal of supplementation should be to maintain an adequate level or improve it. The only accurate way to know your status is to ask your medical provider for a vitamin D blood test.

The Bottom Line

Scientists have confirmed that calcium and vitamin D are important for proper bone health. Adults should continue to include adequate dietary sources of calcium to meet estimated daily needs. The IOM has increased the recommended amount of vitamin D necessary to ensure bone health. Use these keys to help you succeed in your quest to meet these new guidelines.

  • Aim to get 600-800 IU of vitamin D daily.

  • Talk to your health care provider about the need for a vitamin D test, and discuss your test results.

  • Talk to your health care provider about careful sun exposure—10 minutes on the arms, face, and/or legs, three times weekly—before you slather on the sunscreen.

  • Talk to your health care provider about a vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin-mineral supplement that contains vitamin D. If you take one, make sure it is the vitamin D3 form, cholecalciferol.

  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D each day.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Talk to your doctor if you are using the weight loss drug, Orlistat (brand names include Xenical and Alli). This drug may decrease the absorption of vitamin D.

  • Antacids, some cholesterol lowering drugs, some anti-seizure medications, and steroids (like Prednisone) interfere with the absorption of Vitamin D, so discuss your vitamin D intake with your doctor or pharmacist if you take any of these drugs.
What do you think about these new recommendations? Do you think they will provide you with a challenge to meet them on a regular basis?

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why can't I save articles anymore ? Report
I had a blood test for Vitamin D levels a few years ago. I was very deficient. Very. My doctor prescribed 50000 iu prescription dose 1 x per week + 2000 iu 2 x per day D3 (over the counter). My blood levels were checked frequently. It took a full year of this before my blood levels of Vitamin D reached the lower minimum level. I no longer take the prescription D. I do continue to take OTC Vitamin D3 and have blood levels checked annually. Vitamin D seemed to help my moods and my energy. By all means, talk with your medical professional, do research, and make your decisions based on your situation. Report
As usual, 10 of the 14 suggestions for calcium were cows milk (which actually depletes the body's calcium) and 4 of the 14 for vitamin D were cows milk. Report
take a vitiam daily . . Report
I take FLINTSTONE CHEWABLE vitamins daily, so I know I get enough. The CHEWABLES absorb unlike a lot of hard vitamins that pass right through a person. Also, I take them to get the IRON. Report
I have a vitamin D deficiency myself, and I did take the D3 for 12 weeks (one 50,000 units per week). My levels came up and I now take 2000 IU's daily.

For those that are questioning whether or not you were going to start with any supplementation for deficiency). I highly recommend following your doctors recommendation. Consuming foods with vitamin D is one thing, but your doctor's bloodwork report is what you need to pay attention to because that is what your consumption of "D" is actually doing in your body. Anyone who lives north of the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees N latitude) is super high risk for a deficiency.

With the proper levels of "D" in your blood stream, you lower your risk of osteoporosis (given), breast cancer, colon cancer, etc. I also found out with personal experience, that taking the small oil capsule form of the Vitamin D also caused my HDL's to elevate 10 points.

At Spark people, we are not only trying to lose weight, but also looking to live a healthier lifestyle. I believe that this issue of Vitamin D is a serious one, and needs to be paid attention to.

My only other piece of support to offer you is to work very closely with your doctor, and demand that questions you may have for the doctor, be explained to you in layman's terms. You need to be your own advocate. This is your life, and you need to live it on your own terms!

You are #1, and if you don't take care of #1, you will look, feel, and be treated like #2! Report
Before I retired, I was testing most of my patients' Vitamin D levels and over 90% of them were deficient in Vitamin D. I recommend that people take at least 1,000 units of Vitamin D3. I personally take over 4,000 units in order to stay in the optimum range. The recommendations by the government are an improvement but are still quite low. Report
I think the blog should recommend skim milk all the time, not just for drinking at lunch instead of dumb old soda. And the pushing of yogurt is sort of odd, considering all the sugar in it. Also, it says to add plain, full fat milk to coffee and tea, when elsewhere they tell you putting milk into those drinks removes any helpful antioxidants you can derive from drinking coffee and tea. What the?? Too many rules, too many kinds of calciums, too many names of this and that, no wonder people throw up their hands and disbelieve any of it. Plus all the food companies out there trying to make money off of the "worried well" in our culture. Seems to cause more problems than it helps, having too much information. And in the end, many are not really any more "healthy" than they were 5 years ago. Report
I just started taking Vitamin D today on the advice of my healthcare provider. She said to take 2000 miligrams daily for one month to increase my Vitamin D levels then drop down to 1000 daily for the rest of the time. Report
Just had my yearly bloodwork done last month and guess what? I am deficient in Vitamin D! My doc prescribed Vitamin D2 to take once a week for a month. I haven't started it yet and don't know if I will. My tracker consistently says I'm over in D, but my bloodwork says otherwise, lol! I definitely know I don't get it from my diet, but I take a calcium supplement with D and it's still not enough......................what to do?? Report
Great Article. Living in Canada in Saskatchewan (just north of North Dakota) in the winter makes it hard to "get the sun" when it's -30 with a -60 wind chill (in degrees F.). So I take supplements. I broke my ankle 2 years ago & the orthopedic surgeon said to take Vit D - 1000 IU& Calcium 1500mg/day. I'm in the "29 & holding on really, really hard!" age group. The ankle healed fine. I have always taken supplements, since my early 20's. If they don't help, they don't hurt, in the amounts I take them. Report
I'm a nurse at a nursing home and the doctors I work with Rx any where from 1000IU to 5000IU. I've recently started taking Vit. D after reading all the new info on it and talking with my doctor and I swear I can tell if I didn't take it that day! Report
My doctor has had me on Vitamin D for about 6 years and just upped my 1,000 to 2,000. She gives me articles on new approaches to various subjects and really says this is important. Report
My intake of Vitamin D has more to do with keeping Seasonal Affective Disorder away (it runs through my family like wildfire and I live in VT, which has a higher incidence than the national average), not bone health. That said, I'm not too worried since I eat plenty of dairy and dark leafy greens and I take a multivitamin every other day. Report
There are so many positives about getting enough Vit D like staving off cancer and depression just to name two. I recommend getting tested and making sure you are in the upper range. Where I live supplementation is necessary since we are pretty much buried in snow much of the year, lol. I take a 5000 i.u. capsule daily. Report
There are conflicting reports coming out that state the new figures are low, both articles suggest at least 2000- to 5000 IU's. A friend just had a doctor prescribe 1500 IU's. So who really knows what is correct, even if testing shows a amount, what is the correct dosage. We certainly do not get enough from food, and you need 20 minutes of sunlight with out screen to get any amount of D. Report
No, I walk everyday for at least 30 min., take a multi vitamin and also C+D. I also drink milk, eat yogurt and cheese. I also live in S.CA so it is pretty easy to get the sunshine levels you need. Report
Good recommendations. Some Drs. are recommending large doses of Vitamin D for Seasonal Affect Disorder and Fibromyaglia people, Take time to chek the out with your Dr. as to the appropriate doses for you. Report
Very helpful blog Report
I'm not a big believer in artificial supplements. Report
There is no way people in the NW USA can get enough Vitamin D by food alone. Supplementation is absolutely necessary. We also cannot get enough D by sun exposure alone. Are you aware that the USDA recommendation of 400 IU daily is only 25 mcg!!! That is NOTHING. If one is overweight with fat cells, they grab up the D and hold it so it is not usable. It's going to take a couple 1000 IU to get enough usable D. Only a free D test will let you know if you have enough. What a drag!! Report
This was an informative article. Some of the comments made by readers provoked my reaction, re: the dairy industry promoting milk and its by products as healthy. I was raised on a dairy farm until adulthood. Milk was always on our table at breakfast, and cheese at supper. I do not accept the view that milk is unhealthy, especially when generations of farmers have prospered and lived active healthy lives. I would be interested in seeing the connection between vitamin B12, iron and calcium explained with regards to weight. Report
Thank you for this informaiton as it provides so many other options I was not aware of! Good going! Report
I track my calcium & vitamin d intake daily on my nutrition page. If I don't meet the requirements by the end of the day only then do I take a multivitamin to supplement. Report
My brother in law is ill and he was told to illiminate his vitamin D intake before going on massive amounts of antibiotics because vitamin D interferes with antibiotics. It has been such an eye opener to realize how many food items are supplemented with vitamin D. Eggs, milk and milk products, flour.... so products that contain those also. Report
Thanks for the information - Vit D is important and Magnesium as well; and many people do not realize their importance related to Calcium. Report
Soooo, I should be taking my Vitamin D at a different time than my Crestor?
I found this blog informative. Report
I'm not buying it. Most of what they recommend for calcium is related to dairy. Dairy is not a source of calcium the body can use effectively and actually saps bone density because of the magnesium and phosphorus it takes to process it out of the body. Seems like the dairy council may be helping to sponsor the research. The reason none of us get enough calcium is because we aren't fully informed about other sources beside dairy and how to make full use of those sources. Report
This is most valuable info and makes my life easier! Thank you! Report
People with MS tend to have VERY low Vitamin D levels. This was true for me. I had to go with D3 to get mine up. Report
Glad to see the "traditional" establishment is finally waking up and getting with the program. See , input Vit D in the search box, for additional information such as: proven cancer prevention; NO sunlight is NOT enough; calcium absorption & Vit D; D2 vs D3; how much to take?; what type of Vit D supplement to buy (not powdered in capsule, not hard pill form); and for calcium the least absorbable is carbonate and bicarbonate; the most absorbable forms are citrate and malate; stay away from aspartates forms and why; and always take calcium in a 2:1 ratio of calcium & magnesium. Which brings up magnesium: never buy carbonate, bicarbonate, or oxide forms for absorbability reasons. Magnesium oxide is the cheap form of magnesium, so you'll find it in tons of supplements. Report
You can find sunlight exposure information by clicking the vitamin D link in the second paragraph or a little lower in the article where it states, "Vitamin D not only comes from dietary choices but also through skin synthesis as result of sunlight exposure." Report
I started taking supplemnts based on these recommendations several months ago ( along with a B12 supplement) and have found it has helped decrease cravings and increase energy and mental focus. Also, I make a point to read labels for vitamin content on anything 'fortified'. Report
I'm not sure what to do when I see these recommendations. I believe a combination of market driven greed and an inability to do math in the US, is in my mind, eroding the credibility of the US health system. I have had bad experiences with supplements and prescribed medication. I'm beginning not to trust anyone. Report
The only thing missing from this blog was the effect of actual sunlight exposure to our vitamin D levels. Such as, how much is necessary to offset the need for supplementation? I'm not really keen on taking supplements, but I'm not going to eat salmon every day, either. Report
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