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Vitamin D – Why is it so important in Bariatric patients?

Ever wonder why vitamin D3 is one of the required vitamins after weight loss surgery?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. What this means is vitamin D is absorbed into our fat cells and becomes accessible when we are burning fat, however, it can become trapped within those cells when we have excess fat or are less active.  This increases susceptibility to vitamin D deficiency.  Moreover, with rapid weight loss, you are losing fat!  This ALSO increases your chance of a possible deficiency.

What Vitamin D does for the human body? Here are a few examples:

  • Assists in absorption and metabolism of calcium into bones making the bone structure healthier, increases feelings of well-being, aids in healing and increases immune health.  

The recommendation for bariatric patients in our clinic is 5000 international units (IU) every day of Vitamin D3 after surgery.

Labs we check for Vitamin D status: Serum Vitamin D 25-OH with a value of >30 ng/mL, however, if you are taking the recommended amount, your value will tend to be higher.

Vitamin D in Foods

Food item                                        serving size                                   International units (IU)

Trout (rainbow)

3 ounces

648 IU

Fish oil (cod liver)

1 teaspoon

452 IU

Salmon (sockeye)

3 ounces

444 IU

Mushrooms (exposed to ultraviolet light, as noted on the product label)

½ cup

316 IU

Sardines (canned in oil)

3 ounces

165 IU

Tuna (canned)

3 ounces

154 IU

Flatfish (flounder and sole)

3 ounces

120 IU




Milk (*fortified: 1%, or fat-free)

1 cup

116 IU

Soymilk (*fortified)

1 cup

116 IU

Non-dairy milk (*fortified: almond or rice)

1 cup

96 IU

Yogurt (*fortified)

6 ounces

80 IU

*Fortified means certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, have been added to the food item.

Other ways to increase Vitamin D levels are by being in the sun without sunscreen (ONLY 15mins a day), unless otherwise advised by your doctor. You can also purchase a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D. 

NOTE: If you are taking medications, make sure vitamin D does not interact with any of them. ALWAYS let your primary care provider know if you are taking any dietary supplements.  Check with your dietitian if you have any questions! We are here to support and educate you regarding your health!

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