By: Dianna Yanchis, BSc (Nutrition)
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
May 9, 2016
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a very important role in our body. It is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin, as our body is able to make the vitamin when exposed to the sun. It is necessary for bone, teeth, muscle and immune health. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, which allows for proper bone and teeth development. It also lowers the risk of infection by helping immune cells to function properly. Vitamin D plays an essential role in muscle and nerve function. Recently, Vitamin D has been found to lower the risk of diseases and some cancers.
Our primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. It is also found in small amounts in foods such as salmon and eggs. Some food are fortified with vitamin D, including milk, orange juice and soy beverages.
The amount of vitamin D that you need depends on your age. For people aged 9-70 years old, the recommendation is 600 IU per day. To put this into perspective, 1 cup of milk contains 105 IU and a piece of salmon can range from 530-700 IU, depending on the size. Health Canada recommends a 400 IU vitamin D supplement for all adults over the age of 50 years.
Low levels of vitamin D can cause an increase risk of infection, especially among those who are critically ill or are prone to infection. Low levels can also lead to poor calcium and phosphorus absorption, resulting in weak bones and teeth, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. The upper intake level for vitamin D is 4000 IU per day. Total daily vitamin D intake should remain below this maximum amount allowed per day to avoid any possible negative side effects.