With recommendations varying, and different units of measurements being used, it can be hard to keep up.

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What does MCG (µg) mean on a vitamin D label?

What does MCG (µg) mean on a vitamin D label?
Jan 21, 2020

When looking at vitamin supplements, it is always important to read and follow the label. This is especially true for measurements and dosing.

Supplements are sometimes confusing and with certain vitamins, like vitamin D, the dose is sometimes given as “International Units” or IU, and others may refer to “Micrograms” or mcg”, or “µg”. There is no universal unit of measurement around the world, and each health authority deciding their own recommended daily dose. In the future, both ways of dosing are likely going to be shown on the packaging. [6]

In most European countries micrograms (µg) are considered the preferred unit of measurements.

What does microgram mean?

A microgram is a physical unit of measurement, measured at one-millionth of a gram or one-thousandth of a milligram[1] and is a part of the Popular Reference Intake (PRI), otherwise known as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

Why are there different symbols?

The symbol for microgram, µg, comes from the Greeks – where µ means “small”. Together, (µ) translates to “small”, and (g) commonly represents gram. Small gram. Microgram! While µg is the proper symbol, it is not available on a traditional keyboard. This is why it appears as micrograms displayed as “ug”, “mcg”, or “µg” on labels.[2]

Microgram vs Milligram

Pay attention to abbreviations to prevent one unit of measurement being mistaken for a different unit of measurement. The abbreviation “mcg” and “µg” (for micrograms) can be mistaken for “mg” (for milligrams), creating a 1000-fold overdose.[3]

Converting between Micrograms and International Units

A simple approach to converting measurements is the following vitamin D conversion table:

Micrograms (mcg) How to Calculate International Units (UI)
10 mcg Multiply by 40 400 IU
15 mcg Multiply by 40 600 IU
20 mcg Multiply by 40 800 IU
25 mcg Multiply by 40 1000 IU
50 mcg Multiply by 40 2000 IU
100 mcg Multiply by 40 4000 IU

 

Other related misinterpretations

Chart adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [4]

 

It is important to always refer to the Nutritional Information and Directions provided by the product (typically located on the side of the packaging) and to speak to your health care professional before taking any new medications. For those living in the UK, Ddrops® One is available for the whole family, specifically designed to deliver the daily recommended dose of 10 µg ever drop. See below for the Ddrops One package

 

Photo from: Ddrops® One carton

 

If you would like to look more into the differences between milligrams, micrograms, and international units for vitamins, the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements is a good resource to explore.[5]

If you would like to understand vitamin D labels in the UK, read our post "What does “IU” mean on a vitamin D label?"

Originally published on August 1, 2017

About the author:

Samantha Gorys | Ddrops

Samantha is a marketer with a personal interest in all things health & living a healthy lifestyle. Coming from a research background, she enjoys breaking down complicated topics into light-hearted posts, throwing in a corny joke or two for enjoyable reading.

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Despite levels of 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU of vitamin D readily available, should you be taking them?
What does MCG (µg) mean on a vitamin D label?
With recommendations varying, and different units of measurements being used, it can be hard to keep up.
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