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Fortified Orange Juice a Good Source of Vitamin D


Vitamin D deficiency has increasingly been in the news, linked to multiple health issues from brittle bones, heart disease, general fatigue, and recently asthma. Researchers have found that vitamin D fortified orange juice can be as good a source for the vitamin as oral capsule supplements.

This is good news as reliance on sunlight exposure as the primary source of vitamin D is often impractical, especially in northern latitudes during the winter. In the southern latitudes, people are encouraged to use sunscreen and avoid sun to prevent skin cancers.

Knowing that many people don’t drink milk on a daily basis, but do often drink orange juice with their breakfast, Dr. Michael Holick, of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues are studying whether vitamin D is as bioavailable from orange juice as it is from supplements. Their results are published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Milk has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s. Orange juice has only had vitamin D added recently after Holick’s preliminary research suggested OJ might be an effective way to deliver vitamin D. Minute Maid and Tropicana can be found with vitamin D added.

Holick and colleagues conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study using healthy adults aged 18–84 years (15–20/group) who received 1000 IU vitamin D3, 1000 IU vitamin D2, or placebo in orange juice or capsule for 11 wk at the end of winter.

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More than half (64%) of subjects began the study deficient in vitamin D (ie, 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]) concentrations <20 ng/mL). Over the course of the 11 weeks, levels among those receiving vitamin D rose significantly. There was no significant difference in the rise regardless of whether the vitamin was consumed in juice or capsule form.

Participants who had received both placebos showed no improvement in their vitamin D levels.

Natural food sources are rare - mostly just oily fish and mushrooms. Government regulations currently allow only 100 IU of vitamin D to be added to a serving of food or drink. That is not sufficient if you are vitamin D deficient, so you may still need to take capsule supplements to get a therapeutic amount (ie 2,000 IU a day for adults, and 1,000 IU for children).

If possible try to get 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine daily by taking a walk in the sun with your arms unprotected by sunscreen. Use sunscreen for the remainder of your sun exposed time outdoors.

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Fortification of orange juice with vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 is as effective as an oral supplement in maintaining vitamin D status in adults; Rachael M Biancuzzo, Azzie Young, Douglass Bibuld, Mona H Cai, Michael R Winter, Ellen K Klein, Allen Ameri, Richard Reitz, Wael Salameh, Tai C Chen and Michael F Holick; Am J Clin Nutr (April 28, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27972