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New Values for Vitamin D in Foods

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining strong bones. And researchers continue to explore additional ways that vitamin D is important to human health. Now the scientific community is focusing attention on the need to assess the dietary intake of vitamin D in the United States.

To determine how much vitamin D folks are getting in their diets, experts must know how much is in foods and beverages. At the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), researchers are working to provide new analytical values for foods believed to be good sources of vitamin D in the U.S. diet.

The vitamin D project team consists of researchers from two groups at BHNRC—the Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL), headed by Joanne Holden, and the Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory, headed by James Harnly.

First, the BHNRC team worked with other expert analysts to identify methods for analyzing vitamin D in a variety of food types. Existing vitamin D methods were tested by BHNRC chemist Craig Byrdwell, and improvements were made to procedures.

The BHNRC team next prepared a list of foods to be sampled and analyzed. The list of foods included 20 species of raw fish and many types of foods that may be fortified with vitamin D during manufacturing or processing, such as milk, orange juice, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, yogurt, and some margarines.

After review and acceptance of data, the resulting vitamin D values will be incorporated into NDL’s nutrient databank system. From there, the data will be released through the NDL-managed USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, or SR22, which will be launched in 2009. These and other nutrient data products can be accessed by going to

The new vitamin D values will also be part of the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, or FNDDS. The BHNRC’s Food Surveys Research Group uses FNDDS to process and estimate people’s nutrient intakes based on results from national dietary survey data collections.

Project papers have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.—By Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

Joanne Holden is with the USDA-ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Bldg. 005, Room 107, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301) 504-0630, fax (301) 504-0632.

"New Values for Vitamin D in Foods" was published in the May/June 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Last Modified: 4/30/2009
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