Vitamin D sufficiency is required for optimal health. The conditions with strong evidence for a protective effect of vitamin D include several bone diseases, muscle weakness, more than a dozen types of internal cancers, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. There is also weaker evidence for several other diseases and conditions. There are good reasons that vitamin D sufficiency be maintained during all stages of life, from fetal development to old age. Adequate calcium intake is also recommended.

The current vitamin D requirements in the United States are based on protection against bone diseases. These guidelines are being revised upward in light of new findings, especially for soft-tissue health.

The consensus of scientific understanding appears to be that vitamin D deficiency is reached for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels less than 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L), insufficiency in the range from 20-32 ng/mL, and sufficiency in the range from 33-80 ng/mL, with normal in sunny countries 54-90 ng/mL, and excess greater than 100 ng/mL.

Solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiation is the primary source of vitamin D for most people. In general, the health benefits accruing from moderate UV irradiation, without erythema or excess tanning, greatly outweigh the health risks, with skin pigmentation (melanin) providing much of the protection.

In the absence of adequate solar UVB irradiation due to season, latitude, or lifestyle, vitamin D can be obtained from fortified food, oily fish, vitamin D supplements, and artificial sources of UVB radiation.

PMID: 15989379

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