Vitamin D and Your Health

by Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D?

In times past, the best way to get vitamin D was spending a lot of time in the sun. Truly, though, those times are past as we no longer spend most of our days outdoors and shirtless. Some suggest that it only takes minutes each week to produce enough vitamin D, but a recent study done in Hawai’i found that this is not true. In the study, 51% of the participants had low vitamin D levels (less than 30 ng/mL) despite spending about four hours a day in the sun! Spending so much time in the sun unprotected has other health and cosmetic consequences, and is not a recommended method for acquiring adequate vitamin D levels, despite vitamin D being the “sunshine vitamin”.

Food is also a poor source for vitamin D, unless you happen to love fish liver. Cod liver oil, the highest in vitamin D, contains a little over 1000 IU per tablespoon. Swordfish and salmon contain only about 500 IU per three ounces. Tuna has a paltry 150 IU per three ounces. To obtain sufficient vitamin D from any of these foods, aside from the cod liver oil, you would need to consume a very large amount of fish, increasing your risk of mercury poisoning.

Some processed foods and drinks are fortified with vitamin D, but they are fortified in line with the current RDA for vitamin D (400 IU). This means that most fortified foods contain only 100 IU or less, making them very poor sources of vitamin D. You would need to consume unhealthy amounts of already very unhealthy food to get sufficient vitamin D intake.

The Best Way To Get Sufficient Levels Of Vitamin D Is With Supplements

The best way to get vitamin D is from a supplement. Supplements come in precise amounts between 100 IU and 10,000 IU and above, allowing you to tailor exactly how much you need. High quality vitamin manufacturers, such as Thorne, produce vitamin D supplements without unnecessary ingredients like BHT or BHA (two preservatives which may not be labeled on commercial supplements in certain cases).

If you have not gotten a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, or do not have the ability to get one, then 2000 IU is a good general amount to take to become vitamin D sufficient. 2000 IU is enough that most people will achieve at least 35 ng/mL, and no one runs the risk of hypercalcemia. Optimally, you should go and get tested, as 2000 IU may not be enough and there is no way to know for sure without the test.

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