What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine
vitamin.” It can be made by your body when
your skin is exposed to the sun. Your ability
to make vitamin D from sunshine depends
on your skin color, how far north you live,
and season of the year. Too much sunshine
can also be dangerous and put you at risk for
skin cancer. Talk to your doctor to decide
the right amount of sun for you.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
The main role of vitamin D is to help build
and maintain strong, healthy bones and
teeth. Vitamin D does this by keeping the
right amount of calcium and phosphorus in
the blood. People who do not get enough
vitamin D may get brittle, thin bones. This
can lead to bone diseases. It can cause
rickets in children and osteomalacia or
osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D may also
help with immune and lung function.
Where Can I Find Food Sources of
Few foods are naturally good sources of
ξ Egg yolks, beef liver, and oily fish,
such as salmon, mackerel, and
canned sardines and tuna, as well as
ξ Fortified foods provide most of our
vitamin D from foods such as milk,
soy and other milk substitutes,
orange juices, yogurts, margarines,
and ready to eat breakfast cereals.
ξ Ice cream, cheese, and cottage
cheese may not be fortified.
ξ Because vitamin D is a fat soluble
vitamin, it needs fat to be absorbed.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Age Vitamin D IU
Although these are the current guidelines for
vitamin D, many people may need more
vitamin D. This is true for people with
increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How Do I Know if I am Getting Enough
Some people are at higher risk for vitamin D
deficiency. Check the list below to see if
you are at higher risk. Talk to your
healthcare team to find out if you are getting
enough vitamin D.
People with Increased Risk of Vitamin D
ξ Infants who are breastfed (breast
milk is low in vitamin D)
ξ If you are over age 50
ξ If you have limited sun exposure
ξ If you have dark skin
ξ If you live in the northern half of the
US (includes all of the Midwest)
ξ If you have trouble absorbing fats
(Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn’s disease,
ξ If you are obese
Vitamin D supplements can interact with
some medicines. These medicines increase
your risk of having a low vitamin D level:
ξ Medicine that suppresses the
immune system (prednisone and
ξ Medicine that lowers cholesterol like
ξ Some seizure medicines (phenytoin
(Dilantin) and phenobarbital)
ξ Some weight-loss medicines like
orlistat (Xenical, Alli).
Please talk to your health care team about
your vitamin D needs if you are taking one
of these medicines.
Can I Get Too Much Vitamin D?
You can get too much vitamin D from
supplements. Symptoms may include
ξ weight loss
ξ poor appetite
The current Tolerable Upper Intake
(levels thought to be safe) for vitamin D
1000 IU for infants 0-6 months
1500 IU for infants 6-12 months
2500 IU for children 1-3 years
3000 IU for children 4-8 years
4000 IU for all people 9 years and
Doses greater than those listed here as the
Upper Limit may be recommended by your
healthcare provider in certain situations.
Too much sun exposure won’t cause you to
get too much vitamin D because the body
limits how much vitamin D it creates. But
too much sun exposure can put you at risk
for skin cancer.
Where and When Should I get my
Vitamin D Level Checked?
Vitamin D levels can be checked with a
simple blood test. Ask your health care
team if you need to have your vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements come in liquid,
chewables, tablets and soft gels over the
counter, anywhere vitamins are sold. Talk
to your doctor to decide the right vitamin D
supplement and dosage for you.
** Be sure to choose one with
“cholecalciferol” as the vitamin D source
and the USP seal on the label.
**Do not begin taking high doses of vitamin
D without first talking to your doctor.
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the
phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition.
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 7/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department and the Department
of Nursing. HF#487