How Much Vitamin D is the Right Amount?

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: January 17, 2011

We always believed vitamin D was THE vitamin that could be used for a cure for everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. Now, a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) says, “Not so fast” – we may not need to ingest all this vitamin D! One in five Americans currently take vitamin D and calcium supplements, but for many, they may now be an unnecessary part of their daily regimen. In certain situations, too much vitamin D may actually do more harm than good.

High levels of vitamin D supplementation have been linked to undesirable side effects, an increase of calcium absorption in the intestine (which leads to other problems including kidney stones) an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, etc. So, making sure you have the right dose is important. Lately, some controversy has been brewing regarding what exactly the right dose is.

One thing everyone (including the IOM panel) agrees upon is the benefits of vitamin D on bone growth and maintaining healthy bones. The recommended levels of vitamin D are now somewhat higher than what they used to advise, but according to the new report, most North Americans have more than enough vitamin D in their blood (approximately 20 nanograms per milliliter is sufficient for most people) to reach these needs. Women ages 19 through 70 require on average 600 International Units (IU) Daily. Women over 70 should take 800 IU daily.

We can reach the recommended intake in a few ways including through our diet, supplements and sunlight exposure. Foods such as fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, etc.), fish liver oil and egg yolk are rich in naturally occurring vitamin D. Other foods are fortified with vitamin D, including milk, some yogurts, cheeses, other dairy products and orange juice, breakfast cereals. Some people can’t get enough vitamin D in their diet (i.e., people who follow a vegan diet, or who are lactose intolerant, or who rarely eat fish, etc.), so they need to take supplements. The sun is also a source of vitamin D but for the new report, the panel didn’t even factor this in as a viable source when making its recommendations. People are spending more time indoors and using sunscreen to prevent cancer, making the sun a tough source to measure and factor into DRI.

Discuss your daily intake of vitamin D with your healthcare provider. For those of us living in North America, the new report reveals we get are probably getting plenty of daily vitamin D. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough, or think you’re at high risk of deficiency, you may want to get a blood test to check your levels. Tests are usually around $120 and can be covered by insurance. Or, if you think you need to supplement your intake, any dose under 4,000 IU of vitamin D is considered safe.