Supplementing with Vitamin D
For most people, supplementation with vitamin D-3 supplements is the most practical and cost effective method of boosting their serum 25(OH)D levels so that they can experience the simply amazing health benefits of vitamin D.
Vitamin D-3 Supplementation
Depending upon the latitude of your current residence, attempting to get adequate levels of vitamin D from sunshine on a daily basis is simply NOT possible for much of the year. For large segments of the North American population, supplementation is the ONLY practical method possible during the winter months outside of going to a tanning bed establishment.
"The fact that 20,000 IU vitamin D can be produced in the skin in 30 minutes of sun exposure, combined with vitamin D’s basic genomic mechanism of action, raises profound questions. Why did nature develop a system that delivers huge quantities of a steroid precursor after only brief periods of sun exposure? Would natural selection evolve such a system if the remarkably high input that system achieved were unimportant?"
Vitamin D Supplementation with 4,000 IU / day is the Recommended Dosage.
Unless you have reason to believe that you are suffering from cancer, I would recommend starting out by taking 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D-3. While you might be tempted to take a single massive dosage of 50 or a 100 thousand IU, unless you already got cancer these one time dosages do NOT work out as well as taking a vitamin D supplement every day. However, taking 50,000 IU of vitamin D-3 once a week, 52 weeks a year, is, also, effective.
One of the biggest factors in determining how much you need to take depends upon how you take your vitamin D. While it might seem counter intuitive, the most effective way of absorbing vitamin D is to take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, about an hour before your first meal. That method requires the least amount of vitamin D.
Taking your vitamin D at mealtime means that it will be competing for absorbtion along with all the other oil-soluble nutrients. The meal should, also, contain some fat or oil in it. Further, the amount of fiber in your diet will have an impact on it. Hence, taking vitamin D at mealtime will require supplementing with higher amounts of vitamin D.
Proper Vitamin D Supplementation depends upon body weight.
Really short individuals of normal weight would require a lot less, or 2,000 IU a day. Tall and heavier individuals could use 5,000 IU a day. The 4,000 IU dose would be for people between 140 and 175 pounds in weight. Ultimately, it all depends upon the results of your vitamin D blood test. Some people reach their target blood serum levels with very little supplementation, whereas others turn out to be non-responders which require much higher amounts. Dosing with 10,000 IU a day should be reserved ONLY for those individuals having a hard time raising their blood levels of vitamin D.
Sunning yourself in the Sun during the summer, also, produces vitamin D. Thus, for each day of controlled Sun exposure that you get you should be sure to skip one day of supplementation, in order to adjust for the amount of Vitamin D produced by synthesis.
Furthermore, it will always be easier to maintain higher levels of vitamin D during the summertime than it is in the winter. Hence, a seasonal variation of 2,000 IU in dosage seems reasonable to me.
"It has been recognized for some time that at temperate latitudes serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] exhibits an annual cyclic variation, with a peak in late summer and a nadir in late winter."
It would, also, be reasonable to assume that non-healthy individuals suffering from some type of a major disease process would benefit from a considerably higher than 4,000 IU dosage which is targeted at the older, but healthy adult. The theory behind a higher dosage is that the body of a diseased person will be using all that extra D to cure whatever is ailing them, NOT instantly, but over a long period of time.
"The reliable evidence that excess vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia in generally healthy adults comes from daily intakes of vitamin D greater than 100,000 IU or serum 25(OH)D exceeding 240 nmol/L, which are far higher than those necessary to achieve the benefits."
As shown in the graph below, taking only 1,000 IU a day really does NOT help a whole lot. The reason being that your body uses up vitamin D everyday. In short, your body is using half of that 1,000 IU dosage. That leaves only 500 IU a day to build up your body's blood levels. Taking 5,000 IU a day is a lot more effective for most people, while 10,000 IU a day will simply get you to your target serum level faster. The horizontal axis in the chart below gives you an estimate of the number of days that it will take you to get to your target blood levels.
"One of the problems with vitamin D terminology is the archaic method used to express dose, international units or IU. One thousand IU of vitamin D sounds like a lot; in fact, it is only .025 mg or 25 micrograms; i.e., one mcg is 40 IU."
There is wide variation in how people respond to vitamin D-3 supplementation. This means that a vitamin D blood test must be taken within 3 months of starting your supplementation program.
For one thing, effective supplementation requires a healthy digestive track. Your body absorbs oil soluble nutrients in the small intestine. Ergo, it should NOT be surprising to learn that individuals currently suffering from colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn's disease, do NOT respond well to vitamin D supplementation. If that is your current situation, then I would suggest that you try using a tanning salon to boost your serum 25(OH)D levels. Or, you could try a combination of both tanning and supplementation with a much higher dose.
Obese persons require a lot more vitamin D to boost their blood levels to the desired level. This is because vitamin D is stored in every fat cell. Thus, the more overweight that you are the more additional vitamin D you will have to take in order to reach your blood level goal. Dosing at 32 IU per pound per day is a good rule of thumb to go by.
People who get a lot of Sun will be starting out at a higher beginning level and will require less vitamin D supplementation. Correspondingly, those starting out at a lower blood level than 20 ng/ml would require additional vitamin D to achieve their goal.
Side effects of Vitamin D Supplementation
Starting a vitamin D supplementation program for the first time initially results in improved sleep patterns.
To minimize any possible side effects, it is best to start off slow. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is an antidepressant. Within a few weeks of starting supplementation with vitamin D, you should begin to feel energized and young again with an improved mood. As a result, some people may experience their newly increased energy levels as sleeplessness. If this happens to you, then I would try cutting your dosage in half by supplementing every other day.
The reason that 80 ng/mL for most people is the natural maximum level that anyone should want to achieve, is that higher levels will result in sleep disruption. It is that statistical bell curve pattern, once again. Both too little and too much vitamin D results in sleep disruption.
Remember that the long term goal is surviving cancer in your old age. Thus, any short term inconveniences will be overcomed in the long run, with a significantly lower risk of getting cancer or some other lifestyle disease. Another reason for periodically taking a vitamin D blood test is to figure out your your correct dosage.
Vitamin D-3 Supplementation
How much serum 25(OH)D is enough?
While you could go disease by disease to determine the minimum amount required to cure the disease that you might be suffering from, that approach is rather ludicrous. Surely you would want to protect yourself from all cancers, which just happens to require the most vitamin D to prevent, of all the deadly diseases studied to date.
Heatlh conditions that improve as 25(OH)D blood levels goes up.
- Calcium Absorption
- "In a low vitamin D state, the small intestine can absorb approximately 10% to 15% of dietary calcium. When vitamin D levels are adequate, intestinal absorption of dietary calcium more than doubles, rising to approximately 30% to 40%."
- Maximizes out at 32 ng/mL
- "We found that healthy, postmenopausal women with serum 25OHD levels averaging 86.5 nmol/L had calcium absorptive efficiencies from 45% to 65% greater than those with mean 25OHD levels of 50.1 nmol/L."
- Breast Cancer Prevention
- 52 ng/mL effects a 50% risk reduction
- Risk reduction maximizes out at 60 ng/mL
- Insulin Sensitivity
- "Extrapolation from the observations in the current study suggests that increasing 25(OH)D from 10 to 30 ng/mL can improve insulin sensitivity by 60%."
- Protection from Influenza
- "Analysis based on the initial 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations revealed that the higher the concentration, the greater the reduction in the incidence of viral infections of the respiratory tract, with the effect plateauing at concentrations =38 ng/ml."
- "Supplementing with vitamin D to raise the concentrations in the general population to above 38 ng/ml could result in a significant health benefit by reducing the burden of illness from viral infections, at a minimum from viral infections of the respiratory tract in healthy adults living in temperate climates."
Sample blood levels of 25(OH)D in various types of test subjects.
- Non-human Primates: 50 - 80 ng/mL
- Outdoor Workers
- At the end of summer, 30 young men who spent the summer working outdoors, were around 50 ng/mL.
- "Of the 30 outdoor workers in whom we measured 25(OH)D in late summer, 3 had levels above 200 nmol/liter (i.e. 211, 205, and 203 nmol/liter); their sun exposure occurred in Nebraska, Kansas, and North Dakota, at 41.2°, 39.0°, and 46.8°N latitude, respectively."
- "Outdoor workers in the tropics typically have serum 25(OH)D levels
ranging from 120 to 200 nmol/L."
- Indoor Tanners: 43 - 49 ng/mL
- Non-Tanners: 23 - 25 ng/mL
- Worldwide Average - A study from 2009 showed that the worldwide average vitamin D (25-OH-D) blood level was 54 nmol/L.
Go for the outdoor workers' blood serum levels of vitamin D.
Rather than view it as taking mega-dosages of vitamin D, I prefer to think of it as restoring the levels of serum 25(OH)D that were normally obtained by primitive man in the African Savannah over 10,000 years ago. I would suggest that your goal for your required vitamin D blood test should be going for the lower end of what is achievable even by outdoor workers, or between 40 and 70 ng/ml.
"Healthy humans should ... achieve natural 25(OH)D levels (40-70 ng/mL) year-round, whether they are infants, children, pregnant women, lactating women, healthy young adults, or the elderly."
The highest 25(OH)D serum achievable by sun exposure in Honolulu, Hawaii (latitude 21° N) is estimated to be 60 ng/ml and is our precise recommended target. It is, also, a level high enough to prevent most cancers, including breast cancer.
Taking a quantitative approach to blood levels of vitamin D is what makes this approach scientific. The blood test that everyone should get in order to determine their own vitamin D serum blood levels is called the 25(OH)D or the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. The only way to know for sure where you stand is to periodically take a vitamin D blood test. The long-term goal should be to maintain your blood levels of vitamin D between 40–70 ng/ml (100–150 nmol/L).
Your first blood test should be taken 3 months after starting your supplementation program. If you are taking 10,000 IU a day, then a blood test is required after only 30 days. Many recommend a test before starting, but in most cases unless you work outside in the sun all day you will surely have sub-optimal blood levels.
Once you have obtained your target level of 60 ng/ml serum 25(OH)D you can try lowering your daily intake, a bit. By experimentation with your daily dosage, you will basically determine how much vitamin D your body is using up everyday. At that point you would no longer be mega-dosing, but merely taking on a daily basis exactly what your body is using.
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