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Regarding Vitamin D
Photo: Darren Baker
We’ve heard a lot about vitamin D in the news lately. It seems it’s more important than we may have thought, and many of us are not getting enough of it. Why is vitamin D so important, how much do we really need and where do we get it?

Vitamin D may help prevent several serious diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Adequate vitamin D throughout childhood may also reduce the risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. New evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a role in the adult immune system and may help prevent infections and autoimmune diseases. Conclusive evidence on the amounts required to prevent diseases is not yet available.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has doubled the vitamin D requirement for children. The new clinical report, “Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents,” recommends that all children receive 400 International Units (IU) per day, beginning the first few days of life. For adults to age 50, 200 IU are recommended. The recommended amount increases to 400 IU for ages 51-70, and to 600 IU for ages 71 and older. Previous recommendations, issued in 2003, called for 200 IU daily for all age groups.


Where do we get vitamin D? We used to obtain our requirement primarily through sunlight. (Our bodies make vitamin D when skin absorbs sunlight.) In years past, families spent more time enjoying outside activities. However, partly because of lifestyle changes and partly because of skin cancer concerns, we started avoiding the sun. Do we now avoid it too much? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s difficult to determine an adequate amount of sunlight exposure to synthesize recommended vitamin D levels for any given individual. Season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, industrial pollution – all effect UV ray exposure and vitamin D synthesis.

Vitamin D occurs naturally in only a few foods: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), cod liver oil and egg yolks. Vitamin D is also found in commercially fortified foods, such as dairy products, cereals, bread and orange juice.

To determine if you are getting enough of this important vitamin, discuss your diet and lifestyle habits with your health care provider.

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By Brenda Forbes Dickerson. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

American Academy of Pediatrics

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