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Vitamin D3: A Must-Have Supplement

by Vin Kutty, MS on July 7, 2011

Why You Need a Lot More Vitamin D Than the FDA Recommends

Vitamin D and sunshine
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) really blew it.

I’m talking about their Vitamin D decision.

The IOM is a non-profit scientific body that determines the how much of each nutrient is necessary for your health.

Vitamin D has gained more scientific credibility in the last few years than any other nutrient, with the possible exception of Omega-3 fish oils.

Vitamin D deficiency is connected to just about every age-related condition and disorder:

  • heart disease
  • inflammation
  • depression
  • hypertension
  • neuro-muscular disorders
  • infection

..and the list goes on.
Yet, when the IOM got together in 2010 to decide if Vitamin D levels should be increased from 400 units a day, they blew it and stayed conservative. Way too conservative in my opinion. They increased the daily dosage to 600 units per day.

‘That’s a 50% increase,’ was the IOM’s defense when bombarded with criticism.

Yeah, but…the current scientific research says we should be getting anywhere from 2000 to 4000 units a day at a minimum. It’s a bit like fish oil in that sense. What’s in most pills is no where enough to make you actually feel better.

If the IOM had gone with 2000 unit recommendation per day, that would make most Americans deficient. And that would require admitting that there was a major health problem and that means policy change.

Why are we so Vitamin D deficient?

  1. We don’t get enough from our diet. Our bodies weren’t supposed to get their D from diet alone. We were meant to get most of it from sun exposure.
  2. We avoid the sun and apply too much sunscreen. The sunscreen industry is partly to blame here.
  3. We don’t drink as much milk as we used to (this is not a bad thing!)

There would be no need for Vitamin D supplementation if we all worked out in the fields like our ancestors did. But most of us spend our time indoors. And when we go out in the sun, we are so panicked about sunburns and wrinkles that we lather on high-SPF sunscreen.

Sunscreens and Vitamin D Deficiency
Unless you’re a lifeguard on Miami Beach, you’re not getting enough sun to make sufficient Vitamin D.

Here’s something to think about: why did the IOM only recommend 600 units when a fair-skinned person can make 10,000 units from less than an hour of summer-time sun exposure? May be the IOM thinks we all hang out by the pool in our bathing suits all summer long. We should. It’d be nice if we could, wouldn’t it?

But our lives are such that we don’t get enough sun and we don’t eat foods rich in Vitamin D – fish, oysters, dairy and mushrooms.
Vitamin D Council
Dr. John Cannell of the non-profit Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 units per day for adults. That’s 8 times more than what the government recommends. The Vitamin D Council is also in the process of suing the FDA for their low recommendation. Nuff said.

Is is possible to overdose on Vitamin D?

Many people are actually concerned about taking too much Vitamin D and possibly overdosing. Most studies begin to show negative effects at 30,000 units per day. So 10,000 units a day is a very safe and practical upper limit.

Dr. Bruce Hollis, a pediatrician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has been giving pregnant women 4000 units per day. “We haven’t seen a single adverse event on those levels that would lead us to say there is any harm in doing it,” Dr. Hollis says.

If baking in the mid-day sun sounds uncomfortable, then you should definitely consider supplementing.

And here’s the clincher: scientists who study Vitamin D on average take close to what the Vitamin D Council recommends.

What kind should you buy?

Buy Vitamin D3. There is a D2 form, which comes from irradiated mushrooms. D2 is not the kind humans need. D3 on the other hand is the form that your body can absorb and is made from wool.

If you are diagnosed with low D, your doctor will give you a prescription for D2. Yes, the prescription Vitamin D is not the better of the two. Oh well. Now you know.

Prescription Vitamin D

If you’re deficient in D, you are MUCH better off taking over-the-counter D3 supplement than the expensive, poorly-absorbed prescription (Ergocalciferol) D2.

Oh, you can overdose on D2 but unlikely to with D3. Your doctor will not likely know this and the same goes for your pharmacist. Awareness is just building, so cut them some slack.

Tablet, capsules or softgels?

Buy the oily softgels. Powders and tablets are not as well absorbed.

Which brand to buy?

Most of the major brands are fine. It is a very cheap raw material and there is no need for manufacturers to adulterate. Just about every product I’ve seen has been good. You could probably find a one-year supply for under $20. And the pills are so small that no one should have problems swallowing it.

How much Vitamin D3?

I take 5000 units a day. D3 is part of my daily routine, along with fish oil and magnesium. If you’re deficient, you will probably need 10,000 units a day for a few weeks before you can go down to 5000 units a day. Some people I know take it only during the winter time and that’s fine too.

[Get your D measured the next time you go in for a blood test. More is not always better. If you have hyperparathyroidism, you can develop a condition where you have too much calcium in your blood - not good. So keep your doctor in the loop.]

I’ve known way too many miserable, sickly people who were given all kinds of medications from anti-depressants to antibiotics. But after switching doctors and a Vitamin D blood test, it turned out that they were just horribly Vitamin D deficient. After taking 50,000 units a week, they “magically” turned back into their happy, charming selves.

This is why if you’re suffering from any chronic disease, you and your doctor first need to rule out simple nutritional deficiencies before getting out the big guns – prescription drugs and major medical intervention.

Of course, even if you’re not deficient in any nutrient, chronic disease can easily be caused by too much ‘bad stuff’ like sugar, wheat or Omega-6 rich vegetable oils.

Let’s create the ultimate theoretical bad food: wheat flour fried in vegetable oil and coated in sugar. Oh wait…that’s not theoretical. That’s a donut! OK, if you don’t have any nutrient deficiencies but still eat a few donuts a day, you could develop chronic disease. But enough of that.

Just take your Vitamin D3 pills, please!


Here’s a link to a very good video from University of California TV, ‘Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease,’ presented by Dr. David Sane, M.D.

Amusing and insightful highlights from the lecture:
Cardiologist quote

“As cardiologists, we tend to be fairly skeptical of simple, non-invasive treatment.” [Big knowing laughs from other cardiologists in the audience] “OK, I shouldn’t have said that. I take that back. [Joking]


If we can put a stent in or a pacemaker…but to treat with Vitamin D, which can be incredibly cheap and prevent disease, that’s an interesting concept for cardiologists! But we’re catching on!


“In just the last 2 to 3 years, there has been an explosion of data on the cardiovascular frontier on Vitamin D.”

Cardiologist Vitamin D quote


DISCLAIMER: This website does not sell Vitamin D supplements. Neither do any of its affiliates. This information is for your education only. The contents of this blog do not constitute medical advice. This is merely an open discussion of the science behind health and nutrition. Please consult your physician for medical advice.

Author Vin Kutty is an expert on fish oil About the Author: Vin Kutty is OmegaVia’s Scientific Advisor and Chief Blogger. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with over 20 years of experience. Email him.

pharmaceutical grade fish oil

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Pentalltd January 5, 2013 at 12:14 am

Hey Vin I had a question about Vitamin D supplements, there is this article about it which is quite anti-vitamin d supplements and criticizes the vitamin d council and other things, what do you think about it http://thepeopleschemist.com/stinky-sulfur-award-unapproved-drug-disguised-vitamin/

Also how much vitamin d should be taken if you are 18 years old, living in England (not much sunny weather and not out very much when it is sunny), how much can be taken without having any vitamin d tests being done? Would 5000 be good or would 2000 be good if not being blood tested though quite sure of not reciveving anywhere enough sun

Reply

Vin Kutty January 6, 2013 at 12:53 am

Hi Pentaxltd – the article you reference should not be taken seriously. One of the reasons the author says low Vitamin D status is OK is based on a study of Vitamin D status of women in Bangladesh. If I may point out, Bangladesh is Islamic and most women in Islamic countries cover themselves with clothing. Their Vitamin D levels are going to be dangerously low. The study said it was about 16 ng/ml.

Another study cited sub-polar Canadians having 23 ng/ml. Again, the people lead a sun-free live for almost 5 months of the year. The only reason these Canadians had 23 ng/ml is that they eat a fairly decent diet with Vitamin D fortified foods. It is lunacy to look at these populations as standards! What next, following Vitamin D levels of Afghan women or prisoners in solitary confinement as a guideline?

Even the study of Hawaiians is not a fair measurement – most Hawaiians I know are not in the sun all day long. Our bodies are a result of hunter-gatherer ancestry/evolution. There are other (much better) studies of Masai tribesmen in Africa etc. that are better standards of what our Vitamin D status should be. The key is to find traditional living societies. Based on those studies, it looks like we need to be in the 40-50 ng/ml range. Here is the reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22264449

My suggestion to you would be get tested. Then do what you must to get it to at least 30 ng/ml. 40-50 would be better. It’s pointless to guess or suggest a dosage without know your Vitamin D level. Please talk to your doctor.

Yes, the Vitamin D council is a bit aggressive in its recommendation but i admire their work and they’ve done a lot of good. And anyone dismisses Dr. Holick’s work on Vitamin D has an agenda that’s contrary to truth. For what it’s worth, Dr. Holick suggests we all take between 3000 and 4000 IU per day.

Nothing beats sunshine for Vitamin D production. Unless you live in England or other northern countries and/or are dark-skinned. Dark-skinned people need direct equatorial sun to make adequate Vitamin D. Dark-skinned immigrants to Canada, UK, Scandinavia etc. are usually deficient without Vit D supplements.

- Vin Kutty

Reply

pentaxltd January 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

Okay so Vitamin D is good ;D but if I was not to get a vitamin d blood test would there be any dosage which would be good which does not involve monitoring? I am 18 years old live in england rarely get any sunshine and dark skinned, also would this amount provide any mood benefits?

Reply

Vin Kutty January 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Hi Pentaxltd – if you were not to get a blood test, you’d be guessing and flying blind. Since you live in England (not much sun) and don’t get much sunshine and are dark-skinned, I’d be willing to wager a large sum of money that you are Vitamin D3 deficient. I take 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 almost every day. More here: http://www.omegavia.com/supplements-for-depression-anxiety/
- Vin Kutty

Reply

Nicole January 9, 2013 at 12:05 am

Can I take a multi-vitamin such as women’s one a day along with fish oil containing d3 2000IU??? I am 30 my bones are starting to creak so to say and I heard the fish oil is good for memory which I deff. Could use a boost in that area. I’m. Not in the sun much and I drink milk maybe once a week.

Reply

Vin Kutty January 10, 2013 at 1:19 am

Hi Nicole – yes, you certainly can.
- Vin Kutty

Reply

pentaxltd January 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Hmm okay so without a blood test although not good at monitoring it and highly likely of vitamin deficiency, would a 2000iu or 2600iu be good as it will likely be beneficial if someone has very little vitamin d a day and it is still within the conversative estimates of certain medical associations

Reply

Vin Kutty January 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Yes.

Reply

Unique February 3, 2013 at 1:06 am

Im 18 years old and I’m vitamin D deficient and before I knew this I would take one a day women’s multivitamin. My doctor recommended that I take 5000 units of vitamin D. So I bought the D3 supplement and was wondering if I could continue taking the one a day multivitamin which contains 1000 units of vitamin D in addition to the 5000 units of D3? Would I be consuming too much vitamin D? I also live in California so it’s pretty sunny most of the time.

Reply

Vin Kutty February 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Hi Unique – since you were diagnosed deficient in Vitamin D, it makes sense that your doctor put you on 5000 IU per day. And 6000 IU per day is not that much.

If you are a light skinned caucasian, your skin can make 10,000 IU in about an hour if you go to the beach in the summertime – without sunscreen, of course. So 6000 IU is not that high. Since you are under your doctor’s care, check with them before you make any changes. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, then you may be able to drop down to 2000 IU per day during the warmer months.

My advice is not to guess – get tested every 6 months. And this summer, get a lot of mid-day sun exposure with sunscreen just on your face and arms – expose the rest of your body to full direct sun.

- Vin Kutty

Reply

Sunburn March 25, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Hello Mr. Kutty,
I have(had) low Vitamin D. My physician told me to ask the pharmacist for a product named Maximum D3($6/5pills). It comes in a 10,000iu unit gelcap. He told me to take it 3 times a week for 8 weeks and then just once a week. I went from 20 to 48 on the D-test and now am maintaining that level. I feel alot better.
I also have actinic keratoses what do I need to do with my diet to get rid of these tiny sores? Will OmegaVia help?

Reply

Vin Kutty March 25, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Hi Sunburn – I don’t think Omega-3 will do anything for actinic keratosis. By the way, 10,000IU gelcaps are commonly available. This one is $13 for 120 pills. Talk to your doctor about it before switching: http://www.amazon.com/Solgar-Vitamin-Cholecalciferol-000-Softgels/dp/B004TBXGS4/

Reply

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