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Most people can get enough vitamin D from sunlight and food. However, some people may need to take a vitamin D supplement to help them get enough of this nutrient.
This article looks at who may need a vitamin D supplement, how much people need by age, and some vitamin D products to consider. It also discusses how to get more vitamin D naturally.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for healthy bones, immune function, and cell growth.
Some people are more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to the
- Infants consuming breast milk: Human milk does not contain much vitamin D. The NIH says that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that exclusively and partially breastfed infants receive 400 international units (IU) (10 micrograms [mcg]) of vitamin D per day until weaning.
- People who get less exposure to sunlight: People who are housebound, who work night shifts, or who cover their skin for religious reasons may not get the sun exposure they need to create vitamin D. People who live in colder climates may also get less sunlight exposure during the winter months.
- Older adults: Older adults who spend a lot of time indoors may be at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to the NIH, in the United States, around half of older adults with hip fractures may have inadequate vitamin D levels. Also, the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D declines with age.
- People with dark skin: Dark skin tones contain more melanin, which can reduce the amount of vitamin D the skin makes. However, it is unclear whether or not this has health consequences.
Some researchsuggests that Black people have fewer bone fractures and lower rates of osteoporosis than white people.
- People with obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over is associated with lower vitamin D levels, according to the NIH. Individuals who have undergone gastric bypass surgery may also need more vitamin D.
- People with malabsorption: Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease affect the gut’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Additionally, people with such conditions may not be able to eat foods that contain vitamin D due to dietary restrictions.
If a person is concerned that they might not be getting enough vitamin D, a doctor can provide a blood test to confirm whether or not they have a deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiencies can cause conditions that affect the bones, such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis. This is because vitamin D deficiencies reduce calcium absorption.
Deficiencies in vitamin D can also lead to rickets. However, in the U.S., most companies fortify milk with vitamin D. This has lead to rickets becoming rarer.
A person’s daily requirement for vitamin D depends on their age, whether or not they are pregnant, and whether or not they have any underlying medical conditions.
|Age||Daily amount of vitamin D required|
|0–12 months||400 IU (10 mcg)|
|1–18 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|19–70 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|70 years and over||800 IU (20 mcg)|
People who are pregnant or nursing should aim to get 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D per day.
Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D requirements by having safe exposure to sunlight. According to the NIH, spending 5–30 minutes in the sun — with the face, arms, legs, or back exposed — at least twice per week is usually enough.
Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both are effective, but at high dosages, D3 seems to be
Manufacturers use yeast to make D2, while vitamin D3 can come from several sources, including:
- lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool
- fish oils, such as cod liver oil
- algae oil, which is suitable for vegans
Vitamin D supplements are available in different forms, including chewable tablets, liquids, and sprays.
The type of supplement a person uses will depend on their preferences and medical needs. For example, a liquid or spray may be easier to swallow than a pill.
The following brands or products:
- contain safe dosages of vitamin D for adults
- come from brands that adhere to the
Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs)
- have third party certifications for safety and quality
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.
Care/of, a vitamin subscription service, offers capsules containing 1,000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol.
The vitamin is fermented with yeast and other foods to help with absorption, and it is also vegetarian and gluten-free.
Care/of claims that all of its products are sustainably sourced from farms and undergo testing to ensure high quality. The company also claims to use clean production processes, such as using water instead of using harsher chemicals to prepare herbal supplements.
Ritual is a vitamin subscription service that offers products with simple, traceable ingredients. This goes for its multivitamin for women ages 18 years and over.
This multivitamin contains 2,000 IU (50 mcg) of vitamin D3 sourced from lichen. This is more than enough of the vitamin needed for this age group per day.
Ritual claims that all of its vitamins are “Made Traceable” and have a visible supply chain that users can map out online. The Essentials for Women 18+ multivitamin is vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free, and United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verified.
Persona uses vitamin D3 sourced from Vitashine, which is a plant-based form of the vitamin.
As its name suggests, the tablet contains 1,000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D3. It is vegan and free of all major allergens, including soy, dairy, wheat, fish, nuts, eggs, and shellfish.
Persona claims that its vitamins are backed by science, tested for quality and purity, and inspected by a professional before shipping.
This product contains vitamin D3 from lanolin, as well as wild salmon oil, which is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Three capsules provide 3,000 IU (75 mcg) of vitamin D3, giving adults more than enough of this nutrient per day. However, a person can take fewer capsules if they want or need a lower amount.
This product is National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Certified for Sport, which means that it has undergone testing for contaminants and banned substances and that the manufacturers meet CGMP standards.
This liquid vitamin D product contains 100 IU (2.5 mcg) of vitamin D3 per drop. Six drops would provide an adult with the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
According to the manufacturers, in safe amounts, this supplement is also suitable for children.
This brand has certifications from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which runs the UL National Brand Certification Program. This means that the company’s manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing practices are safe.
The Designs for Health website says that this supplement is highly concentrated and bioavailable, meaning that it is easy for the body to absorb. It contains 2,000 IU (50 mcg) of vitamin D in each drop, and the drops quickly disperse in liquid.
A person can add this product to drinks or put it on their tongue. However, because it is high strength, it is important not to take too much. A doctor can advise on the right amount to take.
Taking high amounts of vitamin D orally can be toxic. Research suggests that the tolerable upper limit for adults is
Some symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include:
- weight loss
- frequent urination
- heart arrhythmias
It is important to note that vitamin D toxicity usually only happens through supplementation. Spending a lot of time in the sun does not result in vitamin D toxicity, and it is unlikely that a person will get too much vitamin D from food.
Vitamin D supplements
Having safe exposure to sunlight is one of the most effective ways to get more vitamin D.
However, if this is not possible, some foods also contain this nutrient. These include:
- oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- mushrooms that grow under UV light
- beef liver
- egg yolks
- fortified milk
- fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified orange juice
A person cannot get vitamin D by sitting near windows or by sitting outside in the shade.
A person should contact a doctor if they notice any of the following symptoms, as they could indicate a vitamin D deficiency:
If a person experiences any new or worsening symptoms after taking a vitamin D supplement, they should stop using the product and contact a doctor immediately.
Having a small amount of safe sunlight exposure several times per week can help a person get enough vitamin D. However, there are a variety of reasons that a person may not be able to do this.
For some people, a vitamin D supplement may be necessary.
Vitamin D liquids allow people to tailor the amount to their needs. Some people may only need to take supplements during the winter months, while others may need them year-round.
It is important to note that vitamin D supplements can interact with certain other medications. For this reason, a person should always speak with a doctor before taking any new supplements.
A doctor can also perform a blood test to determine whether or not someone has a vitamin D deficiency. They can then advise on the right amount to take depending on a person’s age and any medications they take.