How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Nutrition / December 1, 2010

An Essential Element of Health

Vitamin D is essential to overall health. The requirements for vitamin D are set by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board based on the strength and quality of current scientific evidence. This video discusses safe and adequate levels of vitamin D.

Video Transcription

The amount of Vitamin D needed in your diet can actually change depending on how much UV light you get from the sun. The less your skin makes Vitamin D, the more Vitamin D you’re going to need from your food or from supplements. The question might be asking is ‘What things affect how much Vitamin D my skin can make?’ There’s a few things, but basically, comes down to anything that protects your skin from the sun is going to block your skin’s ability to make Vitamin D.

If you have dark skin, the melanin in your skin’s going to prevent Vitamin D production. If you cover your arms and legs with clothes, or if you use sunscreens appropriately, you won’t make Vitamin D in your skin. In fact, even the glass that’s in your windows at home and in your car will prevent the rays from the sun that help you make Vitamin D from affecting your skin and making Vitamin D. A few other things can affect how much Vitamin D can be made in your skin.

Unfortunately as you get older, your skin changes and it’s no longer able to make Vitamin D as well as it used to when you were young. Another thing that can happen is Vitamin D is affected by the season of the year. In the summer when the UV rays of the sun are very strong, you can make a lot of Vitamin D, but in the winter, you really can’t make much at all, especially up here in Indiana. That’s another thing that’s important; it depends where you are in the country as to how much this seasonal effect influences your ability to make Vitamin D in the skin. If you’re in the north, there’s a big seasonal effect. When you’re in the south, this effect is still there but it’s not quite as strong.

Let me give you an example: Here in Indiana, you just can’t make any Vitamin D of any substantial amount in your skin from October through March. The UV rays from the sun just can’t reach you and can’t allow your skin to make Vitamin D. There’s a few people in particular, few groups of people, that have to worry about making Vitamin D and getting enough Vitamin D in particular. Elderly people tend to stay out of the sun because of worries about skin cancer, people who are institutionalize, often the elderly in nursing homes are documented to have low Vitamin D status. As I said before, if you have very dark skin, or if for religious reasons or other reasons you cover up, you’re not going to make Vitamin D from the sun. Exclusively breastfed infants should probably also be taking a Vitamin D supplement.

If you’re in any one of those groups, without question, you should have your Vitamin D status tested. This way you’ll know if you need a Vitamin D supplement or if you need to increase the amount of Vitamin D in your diet.


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