Vitamin D

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide
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vitaminWhat is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is a mineral that gives strength to your bones and teeth, and helps your nerves and muscles function properly. Vitamin D also helps your immune system function effectively, and reduces inflammation.

Why is vitamin D important?

The teenage years are the most important for bone growth and development. If you don’t get enough vitamin D during your teenage years, you may be at risk for osteoporosis when you get older. Osteoporosis is the development of weak bones that, over time, can break easily.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Both children and adolescents should get at least 600 IU (International Units), of vitamin D each day. Supplements should be taken with food to improve absorption.

Where can I get vitamin D?

Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is made by the skin when it is exposed to sunshine. However, sunscreen blocks your skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Given the risk for skin cancer with sun exposure, using sunscreen and getting vitamin D through your diet or taking a vitamin D supplement is advised.

The best food sources of vitamin D are fish rich in natural oils such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and products fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, and some yogurts. Although it’s great to get vitamins and minerals from food, taking a vitamin is another way to get the right amount. If you do decide to take a multivitamin supplement, check the label on the bottle and make sure one serving provides at least 600 IU of vitamin D.

Can I get too much vitamin D?

You can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun or from eating certain food. However, taking too much vitamin D as a supplement can be harmful. Research studies have shown that the maximum amount of vitamin D a teen should get is 4000 IU per day, and the minimum is 600 IU per day. More is not always better! Taking too much vitamin D can result in kidney stones.

Below is a table of some healthy foods that contain vitamin D:

FoodServingIUs Vitamin D
Fortified Milk1 cup98
Fortified Soy Milk1 cup104
Fortified Orange Juice1 cup142
Salmon (cooked)3.5 ounces522
Tuna (canned)3 ounces68
Shrimp (canned)3 ounces152
Egg (whole)1 large egg41
Kellogs® low-fat granola with raisins2/3 cup60
Raisin Bran® Cereal3/4 cup60
Total® Cereal1 cup133
Kix® Cereal1 cup32
Quaker® instant oatmeal for women1 packet154

Is vitamin D deficiency (not enough) a problem for teens?

Yes. A research study done at Boston Children’s Hospital shows that 1 in 5 teenage boys and 1 in 4 teenage girls have low vitamin D levels in their blood.

Am I at risk for Vitamin D deficiency (not enough)?

Many people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your health care provider to see if you should have a vitamin D test.