Supplements: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential to build and maintain healthy bones throughout life. Calcium, the main element of bone, can be absorbed into the body only when vitamin D is present. Vitamin D and calcium are involved in many body functions, including keeping your immune and nervous systems healthy.


Getting enough vitamin D can help prevent a number of serious health conditions, including those listed below:

  • Osteoporosis: a preventable condition of soft, fragile, easily fractured bones. Getting enough vitamin Da can also prevent osteopenia, whic is low boe mas (but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis).
  • Rickets and osteomalacia
  • Cancer: Vitamin D is involved in cell growth and has been shown to decrease the growth of leukemia, colon cancer, skin cancer, and breast cancer cells. Additionally, researchers have found that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a lowered risk of prostate and colorectal cancers.
  • Diabetes: Vitamin D may help regulate blood sugar to prevent diabetes or to help control it.
  • Multiple sclerosis: Vitamin D may help protect against this condition.
  • Heart disease: Vitamin D may help prevent hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and lower blood pressure.

Vitamin D is also helpful in the following ways:

  • Helps control blood sugar
  • May help an overactive parathyroid
  • Reduces cartilage damage in people with osteoarthritis and may decrease the severity of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Has been successful in treating psoriasis

You may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement if the following applies to you:

  • You are on anti-convulsant drug therapy or glucocorticoid therapy.
  • You eat a strict vegan diet.

Dietary Sources

Foods that contain vitamin D include the following:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Fortified milk
  • Oysters
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified cereals
  • Egg yolk

Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. If you are fair-skinned, 20 to 30 minutes a day in bright sunlight will meet your vitamin D needs. If you are dark-skinned, you need three hours to get the same benefit. Clouds, smog, clothing, sunscreen, and window glass all decrease the amount of vitamin D you get from sunlight.

Other Ways to Get Enough VItamin D

Vitamin D is included in many multi-vitamins. It can be found in over-the-counter preparations in strengths from 50 IU to 1,000 IU as softgel capsules, tablets, and liquid. Higher-dose prescriptions are available. If you have trouble digesting fat, vitamin D injections are also available by prescription.

How to Take It

To prevent disease, adults under the age of 50 who do not get regular exposure to bright sunlight should take 400-800 IU of vitamin D every day (IU is the standard measurement for vitamin D). If you're older than 50, you should get 800-1,000 IU/day. Children should also get adequate amounts of vitamin D: it's recommended that they get 400 IU of vitamin D every day.

Discuss your supplement regimen regularly with your health care provider.


Taking too much vitamin D (more than 1,000 IU daily) can make you very ill. Symptoms include excessive thirst, metal taste, bone pain, tiredness, sore eyes, itching skin, vomiting, diarrhea, a need to urinate, and muscle problems. Getting too much sunlight will not give you too much vitamin D.

Check with your doctor before taking vitamin D if you have high blood calcium or phosphorus levels or if you have a cardiac or kidney disease.

Possible Interactions

The following decreases the amount of vitamin D you get:

  • Cholestyramine
  • Mineral oil
  • Alcohol
  • Some anti-convulsant therapies

You may also have mineral imbalances from using vitamin D if you take magnesium-containing antacids, digitalis glycosides, verapamil, and thiazide diuretics. For more information about vitamin D, talk with your health care provider.

This document contains information relating to general principles of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts) for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, and contraindications before administering any drug. No claim or endorsements are made for any drug or compound currently in investigative use. No responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in any material herein.

This website is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider. You should consult your health care provider with any questions about the nature or effect of products you purchase here. Be sure to read all directions, warnings and other information accompanying any product before using it.

Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease or illness, and the information regarding these products has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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 Used by permission


Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission

Updated on: 03/10/16
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Vitamin D
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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for normal growth and development of bones and teeth. Calcium cannot be absorbed into the body without vitamin D.
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