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Vitamin D
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a hormone. It's a vitamin because your body cannot absorb calcium without it; it's a hormone because your body manufactures it in response to your skin's exposure to sunlight.

There are two major forms of vitamin D, and both have the word calciferolin their names. In Latin, calciferol means "calcium carrier." Vitamin D 3 (cholecalciferol) is made by the body and is found in some foods. Vitamin D 2 (ergocalciferol) is the form most often added to milk and other foods, and the form you're most likely to use as a supplement.

Strong evidence tells us that the combination of vitamin D and calcium supplements can be quite helpful for preventing and treating osteoporosis. Vitamin D is experiencing renewed attention for many potential health benefits,...

Without question, if you are concerned about osteoporosis , you should take calcium and vitamin D. The combination appears to help prevent bone loss. 1 This is true even if you are taking other treatments for osteoporosis; after all, you can't build bone without calcium, and you can't properly absorb and utilize calcium without adequate intake of vitamin D. Interestingly, vitamin D may also help prevent the falls that lead to osteoporotic fractures .

Other uses of vitamin D are less well documented.

Some evidence suggests that getting adequate vitamin D may help prevent cancer of the breast, colon, pancreas, prostate, and skin, but the research on this question has yielded mixed results. 2 One study suggests that combined use of calcium plus vitamin D, but not...

Safety Issues

When taken at recommended dosages, vitamin D appears to be safe. However, when used at considerable excess, vitamin D can build up in the body and cause toxic symptoms. At an intake level of about 40,000 IU daily (about 100 times the recommended daily intake) vitamin D can cause dangerous elevations in blood calcium levels. 3 Doses five times higher than this were consumed by a few individuals due to a manufacturing error; the resulting toxicity was severe and may have caused death in one individual. 4 However, short of these vastly excessive dosages, it is not clear at what level vitamin D becomes toxic.

According to updated recommendations from the Institute of Medicine,44 the safe upper limits (UL) for vitamin D daily intake are as follows: