Why You Need a Lot More Vitamin D Than the FDA Recommends
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
- neuro-muscular disorders
..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?
- 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.
- We avoid the sun and apply too much sunscreen. The sunscreen industry is partly to blame here.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.”
|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.|
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.