The 9 Best Vitamin D Supplements, According to a Dietitian
By NCVC Staff | Published on Sep 20, 2023
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that plays a vital role in maintaining our overall health. Unfortunately, many people struggle to get enough of it through their diet or sun exposure alone. That’s where vitamin D supplements come in. Not only are they effective in increasing and maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D, but they are also beneficial for specific groups of individuals who are at a higher risk of deficiency.
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Who Can Benefit from Vitamin D Supplements?
While everyone can benefit from vitamin D supplements to some extent, there are certain groups of people who may find them particularly helpful:
- Older adults: As we age, our ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases, and spending less time outdoors further contributes to the deficiency risk.
- People with darker skin: Those with more pigment produce less vitamin D, making individuals of African American descent more susceptible to deficiency.
- People who have difficulty absorbing fat: Certain medical conditions hinder fat absorption, consequently increasing the risk of deficiency.
- People who have had bariatric surgery: Bariatric surgery reduces nutrient absorption, including vitamin D, necessitating higher supplement dosages.
- People with a high body fat percentage: Individuals with higher fat mass may struggle to release vitamin D into their bloodstream effectively.
- Pregnant people: Adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for proper fetal skeletal development and other pregnancy outcomes.
- People trying to conceive: Low vitamin D levels may decrease fertility, making supplementation essential for those trying to conceive.
- Postmenopausal women: Vitamin D helps maintain bone density, making it important for women at higher risk of osteoporosis.
- People with osteoporosis: Vitamin D can support bone density and reduce fracture risk in individuals with osteoporosis.
- People with PCOS: Vitamin D deficiency is common among people with PCOS, and supplementation may help alleviate symptoms.
- Breastfed babies: Breast milk contains little vitamin D, so it’s crucial for breastfeeding babies to take a vitamin D supplement.
- People with chronic kidney or liver disease: Illnesses affecting vitamin D conversion can lead to deficiency, necessitating supplementation.
Who Should Avoid Vitamin D Supplements?
While vitamin D supplements are generally safe, there are certain cases where the risks may outweigh the benefits:
- People with adequate vitamin D levels: If you can maintain adequate blood vitamin D levels through diet and sun exposure, additional supplements may not be necessary, and excessive intake can have harmful side effects.
- People with high blood calcium levels: Those with high blood calcium should consult their doctors before taking vitamin D supplements, as vitamin D enhances calcium absorption.
- People prone to kidney stones: Increased calcium absorption due to vitamin D supplementation may elevate the risk of kidney stones. Consult a healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
- People taking certain medications: Some medications can interact with vitamin D supplements, requiring professional advice before consumption.
How to Choose the Right Vitamin D Supplement
When selecting a vitamin D supplement, it’s essential to consider a few factors to ensure safety and effectiveness:
Look for supplements that have undergone third-party testing to verify their contents and ensure they are not contaminated. However, bear in mind that not all third-party testing is equal. Reliable certifications come from organizations like ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. If a supplement lacks these certifications, research the manufacturer’s reputability and reach out to them for information about their testing protocols.
Vitamin D supplements come in two forms: D2 and D3. D3, which resembles the vitamin D produced naturally in our bodies, is better absorbed. Therefore, opt for supplements that contain D3.
Ingredients & Potential Interactions
Carefully review the supplement’s ingredient list and nutrition facts panel to understand the included ingredients and their amounts. Consult a healthcare provider to assess potential interactions between the supplement and any other medications or supplements you are taking.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is typically 600 IU, but recent research suggests higher doses may be necessary to correct deficiencies and maintain adequate levels. Depending on various factors such as age, lifestyle, and sun exposure, your healthcare professional can determine the appropriate dose for you.
Moderation is Key
While vitamin D is essential for our well-being, it’s important to avoid excessive intake. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning the body stores excess amounts. Overconsumption can lead to health concerns, including hypercalcemia, kidney failure, and increased risk of certain diseases. The tolerable upper intake level is 4,000 IU per day, and toxicity is rarely observed below 10,000 IU per day. Regular monitoring by a healthcare provider helps ensure you’re taking the right amount.
Why You Can Trust Our Recommendations
At Verywell Health, we take pride in delivering reliable and evidence-based information. Our team consists of experts who prioritize transparency and scientific foundations. We value third-party testing and certifications from trusted organizations like USP, NSF, and ConsumerLab.com. To provide you with the most accurate and trustworthy recommendations, we consulted registered dietitians and diabetes educators Kelsey Kunik, RDN, Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, and Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES.
In conclusion, vitamin D supplements are an effective way to maintain optimal vitamin D levels, especially for individuals at higher risk of deficiency. By carefully considering the supplement’s qualities, consulting healthcare professionals, and staying within recommended dosages, you can make informed decisions that support your health and well-being.