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Nutrition for Aging: Vitamin D

Are you getting enough of this important vitamin?

A Veteran reading a supplement facts labelWe need many essential nutrients for long, healthy lives. But most adults in the U.S. get less vitamin D than recommended. When you get older, it's really important to have the right amount of vitamin D. It protects your bone, joint, and muscle health.

Know the risks of not having enough vitamin D, and where to get it.

What can a vitamin D deficiency cause?

If you don’t have enough vitamin D, you could have vitamin D deficiency. That means your body won’t absorb calcium well. It can also lead to illnesses such as osteoporosis or rickets.

What can Vitamin D deficiency be caused by?

  • Lack of vitamin D in your diet or problems absorbing vitamin D from food

  • Not enough sunlight

  • Problems in liver or kidneys converting vitamin D

  • Medicines that interfere with absorbing vitamin D

How much is enough?

The amount of vitamin D needed varies for each person. Most adults need 600 IU (international units) each day. But adults 71 and over need 800 IU. You might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency if you’re in one of these categories:

  • People with osteoporosis, liver disease, chronic kidney disease, obesity, Crohn’s disease, hyperparathyroidism, and some types of lymphoma

  • Older adults

  • People with dark skin

  • People who take certain medicines that impact vitamin D metabolism

Where do you get vitamin D?

Bodies naturally create vitamin D after sunlight exposure. Another way to get more is through your diet. Try these foods to boost your vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel

  • Beef liver

  • Cheese

  • Mushrooms

  • Egg yolks

  • Milk (fortified: nonfat, 1% or 2%, 1%, or fat-free)

Remember: Don’t forget to read your food label to ensure your foods have plenty of vitamin D. Vitamin D is considered a “voluntary” nutrient. It is not included on every food label. It is only included when it is “added” to a food.

Ask your doctor for a vitamin D test to learn if you need supplements. Make sure you record any vitamins or supplements you take in My HealtheVet. You can download and share this information with your provider at future appointments.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Do you think you get enough vitamin D?


Read More

Vitamin D (MedlinePlus)

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (Veterans Health Library)

Dietary Supplements for Older Adults (National Institute on Aging)


Updated January 24, 2022