You know there’s more than ample evidence of the worldwide epidemic regarding vitamin D deficiency. That’s why I did a double-take when I saw recent headlines screaming that many Americans actually take too much vitamin D. Really?
So I investigated further, and discovered this is a classic case of “bait and switch.” While I want to be careful about casting the first “stone” (or in the case of vitamin D, “bone”), these headlines were actually built on a house of cards.
The foundation of that house? A study published in June in the Journal of the American Medical Association.1
This study was really only a survey, which simply asked 40,000 people how much vitamin D they take each day. And the only factual finding of the survey is that more Americans were taking more vitamin D in 2013-14, compared to 2007–08, and 1999-2000.
In 2013-14, 3.2% of American adults reported they took 4,000 IU or more of vitamin D a day. In 2007-08, only 0.2% took that amount.
And in 1999-2000, the survey didn’t even track dosages that high. The researchers reported that 0.3% of American adults took a measly 1,000 IU of vitamin D. In 2013-14, that number rose to 18 percent.
The more the merrier…and healthier
Given everything we know about the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S., all of the health problems associated with low intake of vitamin D, and all of the health benefits of higher vitamin D, this study should be taken as good news. Not as an alarming headline.
And the study reported that people over age 70 were the most likely to take over 4,000 IU of D daily—which is actually more good news!
In fact, more and more doctors are getting the message about the crucial need to make sure their patients get enough vitamin D.
I know that my doctors, as well as doctors I hear about from family and friends, are all recommending more vitamin D. Regardless of their medical specialty, more doctors now realize that D is key to keeping everyone healthy. No wonder more people are getting more vitamin D!
Vitamin D dosage debacle
The researchers who conducted the survey claimed people who take 4,000 IU of D a day may be exceeding the upper limits of what is safe. Hence the headlines that Americans are taking “too much” vitamin D.
Give them a break (but it won’t be their bones)! The researchers apparently based their conclusions on the inappropriate, inadequate U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D.
The RDA of 600 IU a day for adults under age 70 and 800 IU for every other adult is a minimum level, based only on bone health.
But what the RDA doesn’t take into account is the literally thousands of recent findings about optimal levels of D to prevent and reverse many other chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and on and on. Furthermore, as I reported in an April 2015 Daily Dispatch, experts at two different medical universities discovered that the government miscalculated its RDAs for vitamin D. They should in fact be 10 times higher!
That’s why two years ago, based on the latest science, I increased my recommended daily dose of vitamin D from 5,000 IU a day to 10,000 IU.
Why you probably need to supplement with D
I think it’s important to note that the JAMA study only cited vitamin D dosages, rather than actual levels of the vitamin in blood and tissues—which are the real numbers that count when it comes to health outcomes.
And the study author admitted there is actually little data on long-term health concerns from getting “too much” vitamin D. In fact, the only specific she provided is that higher calcium levels in the blood can be dangerous—which is definitely true.
But, of course, studies are clear that excess calcium results from taking calcium supplements—which I always tell you to avoid—and not “too much” vitamin D.
D actually makes sure the calcium in your blood gets into your bones, muscles, and other tissues and cells where it’s needed…and not into your arteries, where it’s definitely not needed.
So why do I think you should supplement with vitamin D?
First of all, exposing bare skin to sunshine allows your body to produce vitamin D, but sunscreens and dermatological photophobia limit how much of the sun’s rays most people really absorb. And for those who live north of Atlanta or Los Angeles, the sun is only at the correct angle, high enough in the sky, to produce D from April to October.
Of course, you can also get vitamin D from full-fat dairy products and wild-caught fish. But how many people actually eat sufficient amounts of these foods? Definitely not enough.
That’s why I recommend you supplement with 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, when not getting healthy sun exposure. And while you’re at it, look past the scare-tactic headlines, and really examine what the actual data tells us when it comes to nutrition “news.”
1“Trends in Use of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplements Exceeding 1000 or 4000 International Units Daily, 1999-2014,” JAMA 2017;317(23):2448-2450.