FAQs about Vita-D3 (Vitamin D)

  • What does vitamin D do?  A. Scientists continue to study health benefits related to vitamin D.  Recent scientific research has shown that higher vitamin D blood levels can support healthy heart function, immune health, and healthy cell development.  In addition, vitamin D helps support breast, colon, and prostate health.  Children and adolescents need vitamin D to help their bodies absorb calcium, which is essential for building strong bones and teeth.  Adults need vitamin D and calcium to maintain bone mass.  Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Does my body create vitamin D?  A. Yes.  vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because your body produces it when your skin is exposed to sunlight.  Depending on where you live, 10 minutes of daily summer sunshine may be enough to help your body produce the amount of vitamin D it needs.  However, 10 minutes may not be enough if it’s wintertime or if you live in the northern latitudes.  Also, the older you are and the darker your skin color is, the more sun you need to make a sufficient amount of vitamin D.
  • How much vitamin D do I need?  A.  The amount of vitamin D your body needs can vary depending on the time of year, your skin color, where you live, how much sun exposure you get, your weight, your health conditions, and how often you exercise.  Talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you should be getting.
  • Who is at risk for insufficient vitamin D levels?
  • Individuals who don’t eat vitamin D rich foods.  These foods include fish, fish liver oils, and fortified foods such as cow’s milk, fortified juices, and cereals.
  • Breastfed infants.  Vitamin D requirements cannot be met by human milk alone and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed infants be supplemented with 400 IU/d.
  • Older adults.  As we age, we don’t synthesize vitamin D as efficiently.  Institutionalized seniors are at very high risk for vitamin D deficiency.
  • Populations with limited sun exposure.  Homebound individuals, those living in northern latitudes, people who wear long robes and head coverings, and people with occupations that prevent sun exposure are unlikely to obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight.
  • People with dark skin.  Darker skin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
  • Those who are obese, overweight, or have undergone gastric bypass surgery.  Individuals with a BMI >30 typically have a low plasma concentration of 25(OH)D, this level decreases as obesity and body fat increases.
  • People who don’t exercise regularly.  A recent study found positive associations between 25(OH)D levels in adolescents, vigorous physical activity, and maximal oxygen consumption.
  • How can I get more vitamin D?  A.  One way to up your intake of vitamin D is through food.  Foods that contain vitamin D include fish and vitamin-D fortified foods, such as dairy products, juice and breakfast cereals.  However, most people don’t get enough from food alone.  Up to 80% of Americans may have insufficient levels of vitamin D.  Taking a vitamin D supplement is a convenient and effective option for increasing vitamin D levels.  Talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you may need.  Your doctor will ask you about your diet, your exposure to sunlight, and other factors that may impact vitamin D status.  Your doctor may also suggest testing your vitamin D levels.
  • What kind of Vitamin D is best?  A.  The preferred form of vitamin D is vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol.  This is the more potent form of vitamin D that the human body makes with exposure to sunlight.

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