20% – 50% of people living in the United States are low on vitamin D according to an estimate by the Endocrine Society, with even greater deficits in the elderly. Vitamin D is a hormone needed to absorb calcium and phosphorous. Without vitamin D, only 10% – 15% of calcium consumed can be absorbed, and only 60% of phosphorous. Vitamin D can be monitored through blood tests performed during a check-up with your doctor.
Where can you get vitamin D?
The best source of Vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight! In order to get enough, it’s recommended that you get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight everyday, so your skin can make vitamin D. There are also some dietary sources of vitamin D, although your options are limited. These include vitamin D fortified milk or orange juice, fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), margarine, and eggs. Many multi-vitamins and calcium supplements also come with vitamin D.
The recommended daily amount of Vitamin D for most adults is 600 IU per day, and up to 800 IU per day for the elderly.
What if you are vitamin D deficient?
Inadequate amounts of vitamin D can lead to decreased calcium and phosphorous levels, which are critical to bone health. It can also lead to muscle weakness, increasing the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly.
Vitamin D is available as vitamin D2 or vitamin D3, both of which can be used for supplementation. If your blood levels are low, you may require higher doses (50,000 IU available only as a prescription) that should be used under the direction of a health care provider.
Is there any other benefit to vitamin D supplementation?
Vitamin D is commonly used in the elderly to decrease the risk of falls. Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. However, there is limited scientific data to suggest that supplementation beyond daily recommended amounts is required.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any other questions. And don’t forget to get a healthy dose of sunlight this summer; it’s good for you!
The GoodRx Pharmacist