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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D content of meat, fish, dairy and eggs

Recently two Swiss researchers published a review of all the studies on the vitamin D content of various protein food groups.

Schmid A, Walther B.  Natural vitamin D content in animal products. Adv Nutr. 2013 Jul 1;4(4):453-62.

Here is what they found:

Vitamin D in red meat and poultry

A search of the national food composition databases of Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States for vitamin D content in various raw meats yielded a wide variety of values. It was: 0–36 IU/100 gm for beef, 4- 92 IU/100 gm for pork, 40 – 240 IU/100 gm for lamb, 0– 200 IU/100 gm for veal, and 0–56 IU/100 gm for poultry.

The higher values of some meats may be due to high supplemental vitamin D content of animal feed in some studies. Also, the authors found that cooking does not much influence the vitamin D content of animal foods. However, exposure to light can significantly reduce vitamin D content.

As to the 25(OH)D content of some red meat, the vast majority of studies found very little 25(OH)D activity in muscle meats. However, one of the 20 meat studies reviewed found the 25(OH)D content of the longissmus muscle in pork (a muscle in the back) had a D3 equivalence of 1,300 IU/100 gm. However, this finding was such an outlier, that it’s hard to make much of it.

Vitamin D in eggs

The vitamin D content of egg yolks ranged between 27 to 46 IU per yolk. The 25(OH)D3 content ranged from 20 to 50 IU of D3 activity per yolk, meaning in eggs, the vitamin D and 25(OH)D activity is similar.

Also recall a recent study that found if you applied UV light to the legs of chickens, the vitamin D content of their eggs increased significantly. However, this method has not come into practice.

Vitamin D in dairy products

The vitamin D content [including 25(OH)D] of unfortified dairy products, including cheese and cream, is negligible except for butter, which ranged from 8 to 40 IU/100 gm.

Also, the authors found that the vitamin D bioavailability of vitamin D in fortified milk is not influenced by the fat content. Meaning there is the same amount of vitamin D in skim milk as there is from whole milk. They also found that thermal stress like pasteurization, ultra heat treatment or sterilization does not provoke a significant loss of added vitamin D in milk.

Vitamin D in fish

In fish, contrary to general belief, no significant correlation between the fat content of fish and vitamin D content was detected. The single biggest factor in how much vitamin D activity is in wild fish is the vitamin D content of the zooplankton in its food chain. The fish with the most vitamin D was not salmon; it was tilapia at 1,800 IU/100 gm. When 25(OH)D3 was analyzed in fish and fish products, the results were consistently very low and often there was no detectable 25(OH)D content.

The authors concluded:

“Because recommendations for vitamin D intake have recently been increased considerably, the possibility to cover the requirements with foodstuff is even more difficult.”

The time has come to fortify more foods with vitamin D.  Many people need to get vitamin D in their diet or they will not get it. Eggs, cereals, breads, canned vegetables, fast foods, yogurt and cheese could all be fortified. Yogurt and cheese are made from unfortified milk and thus have little or no vitamin D.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

9 Responses to Vitamin D content of meat, fish, dairy and eggs

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    Dr. Cannell:

    I agree 100% with your point: “The time has come to fortify more foods with vitamin D. Many people need to get vitamin D in their diet or they will not get it. Eggs, cereals, breads, canned vegetables, fast foods, yogurt and cheese could all be fortified. Yogurt and cheese are made from unfortified milk and thus have little or no vitamin D.”

    I am embarrassed to say that a year ago I didn’t really understand the necessity and importance of food fortification.

    However, after outreaching at health fairs in some of the poorest communities in New Haven, I have a very (very) different perspective.

    Certainly folks need to be educated on the benefits of appropriate sun exposure and adequate vitamin D supplementation; however, life often gets in the way for everyone, but particularly the poor…. The importance of sunlamps and supplements can be lost in the activity of daily survival. You are very correct: For many it needs to be D via food…or they will not get it at all.

    Perhaps this will be my 3rd video 😉

    (BTW–Bessie the Cow is looking very upfront, direct, and in our faces here)

  2. Rita and Misty says:

    Dr. Cannell:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/back-health-equality-complaint-against-fda-2

    Is the attached petition still valid? I know that in 2011 VDC desired to get 10,000 signatures on this petition before proceeding forward. And I see that 2,500 signatures were received in 2011.

    I’m in a great spot to get the remaining 7,500 signatures. Why not let me me? I think you understand very well that I walk my talk, Dr. John Cannell. :)

    But, it would be foolish for me to “hoof it” if there is some sort of time limit, etc. After all, two years have passed.

    I would appreciate it if you would let me know via this blog, email or Brant.

    I hope you are well !

    Rita

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Or, Brant~~It’s fine if you call me. I have several things to discuss with you anyway.

  4. David1941 says:

    Brant, a 2013 AJCN study concludes that the natural vitamin D in animal foods [25(OH)D3] is about 5 times more potent than ordinary D3 (cholecalficerol) at raising winter-time blood levels based on a 10-week RCT with 56 adults age 56 and over.
    The authors conclude that the ability of foods naturally rich in 25(OH)D3 to improve vitamin D status may be significantly underestimated. See Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:1350-56. I’m puzzled why the Swiss study above fails to mention or factor in this important finding. Can you please explain?

    • Brant Cebulla says:

      David,

      While 25OHD is very potent, they’ve still failed to find 25OHD in abundance in meat products. I think there is some thinking that meat has more than we think, or that we just haven’t looked for it enough in meats, but at present, they just haven’t looked that much and when they do, they don’t find much there.

      Cheers,
      Brant

  5. Rita and Misty says:

    @David1941:

    Are you supportive of food fortification?

    I am.

    From my outreach I can tell you that there are many poor people, single moms, elderly, and those suffering from illness(s)…who are so laden down with the problems of day-to-day survival they just cannot focus on supplementation.

    This folks won’t ever get adequate vitamin D if not for food fortification.

    How many others here in this virtual community are supportive of food fortification?

    I can GET those 7,500 signatures for the above-linked petition.

    David: Will you help me?

    :)

  6. Rita and Misty says:

    (I apologize Brant for glomming space to stand on my soap box…and this isn’t something I expect you to answer–and, most importantly: I hope you can forgive me for returning to this subject)

    But:

    Wouldn’t food fortification solve at least some of the problem?

    Doesn’t the blog read:

    “The time has come to fortify more foods with vitamin D. Many people need to get vitamin D in their diet or they will not get it. Eggs, cereals, breads, canned vegetables, fast foods, yogurt and cheese could all be fortified. Yogurt and cheese are made from unfortified milk and thus have little or no vitamin D.”

    I agree with the above statement. It makes sage sense.

    So:

    Why is the petition no longer valid?

  7. Rita and Misty says:

    “The beneficial effects of vitamin D supplementation for several health-related issues, including the prevention of diabetes, are a topic of intense discussion.

    Data from epidemiological studies suggest a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and higher prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes (T1D and T2D).

    In animal models, vitamin D deficiency predisposes to diabetes whereas vitamin D supplementation prevents disease.

    Nevertheless, well-designed clinical intervention studies are lacking. We discuss here the evidence for a role of vitamin D in diabetes and propose that vitamin D deficiency should be avoided, especially in all at-risk people.

    This should be possible by implementing global guidelines and by focusing on daily dietary supplementation with small doses of vitamin D.”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043276013001215