Nutrition Tip  
  April 2010
Vitamin D  

Credit my intern Elise Wiersma for this one.

Q: What is Vitamin D, where can I get it and why does it matter?

A:   Vitamin D is a vitamin that is made in your body. It is made by the liver and converted to its active form in the skin through sunlight. Unfortunately for many Michiganders and those living in northern states, sunlight is hard to come by many months of the year. There are also concerns for skin cancer with too much sun exposure without sunscreen.

Vitamin D is important in absorbing calcium and phosphorus in the gastrointestinal tract.  Calcium and phosphorus make up our bones and teeth. It is important for children to produce strong bones and adults to maintain the bone already built. Osteoporosis is a growing problem in older adults, so it’s important to get calcium and Vitamin D in the diet early and often. Vitamin D also plays a role in the immune system, inflammation and neuromuscular function.

Vitamin D is not common in many foods. It is found in the flesh of fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils and small amounts are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It is added to dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt), orange juice, cereal, bread and soy drinks. Check the label to see if there is Vitamin D in the products you are choosing.

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for ages 0-50 is 5 micrograms or 200 IUs (International Units), for ages 50-71 it is 10 micrograms or 400 IUs and ages above 71 it is 15 micrograms or 600 IUs. There has been some research about the appropriate amount of Vitamin D in the diet, so stay tuned for any changes! An easy way to get in the amount of calcium and Vitamin D in the diet is to choose 3 dairy (or soy) servings a day that contribute 30% of both calcium and Vitamin D.  Be sure to read the label to check to see the amount in a serving.   During the summer months (or year round for those in southern states) spending 5-30 minutes outside without sunscreen on and arms and legs exposed can produce the daily amount of Vitamin D needed. Those with darker skin will need to be out longer than those with fair skin.


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