More “fake news” about vitamin D

Last month, I came across several mainstream headlines screaming about a new analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found some Americans take “too much” vitamin D.

Sure, JAMA is a respected journal. But they blew it this time. The analysis is a classic case of “bait and switch.” And a prime example of fake news, especially for those who don’t read past the headlines (like most doctors, according to the AMA itself).

For their analysis, researchers looked at survey data on 40,000 people about how much vitamin D they take. Turns out, more Americans reported taking more vitamin D in 2014 compared to what they reported taking between 2007 and 2008 and 1999 and 2000.

That’s it.

That’s all the data there actually was to this new JAMA analysis splashed across nearly every mainstream outlet last month that got everyone hot and bothered.

Given everything we know about the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S., all the health problems of low vitamin D, and all the health benefits of higher vitamin D, we should take this finding as good news!

Not an alarming headline.

People over age 70 represented the group with the biggest increase in vitamin D intake — which is more good news!

In addition, in my view, the findings should come as no surprise, since more doctors now recommend vitamin D supplementation for their patients! Indeed, more and more doctors now recognize the dangers of having a vitamin D deficiency. My primary care doctor and medical specialists, as well as doctors I hear about from family and friends, all recommend getting more vitamin D. They now realize that vitamin D is good for what ails you and helps keep you healthy.

Besides, I saw some major flaws in the new analysis…

RDAs are minimums

The first problem with the new analysis involves the researchers’ benchmark for defining “too much” vitamin D.

They cite the inappropriate, inadequate RDA for vitamin D intake.

Remember, the RDA is a minimum level. In the case of vitamin D, it is the minimum level based only on bone health. (They must also assume that Americans get enough calcium based on RDAs. To learn more about the calcium crisis, refer to this month’s issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.)

Because more study participants reported exceeding the paltry RDA of vitamin D, the researchers worry that it’s “too much.”

But this is nonsense.

As I often warn, the RDA doesn’t reflect all the findings about optimal nutritional levels needed to prevent and reverse many other chronic diseases, including improving cancer survival and quality of life. Especially when it comes to vitamin D.

Furthermore, experts at two different medical universities found that the government miscalculated the RDAs. In fact, they say the RDAs should be 10 times higher!

Be careful who you listen to

The news stories cited opinions from the study’s author, a Ph.D. student from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, about the supposed hazards of getting “too much” vitamin D.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was once a Ph.D. student myself. And I know some good research comes out of those programs.

But I’m not going to take dietary advice from one lone Ph.D. student trying to make a name for herself when all the data from the last 30 years points me in the complete opposite direction.

At least the Ph.D. candidate admitted there’s little data on long-term health concerns from getting “too much” vitamin D.

Too much calcium IS harmful, but…

The only specific, accurate point the author provided is that higher calcium levels in blood can be dangerous — which is definitely true.

But as I often report, studies clearly show excess calcium results from taking calcium supplements. Not from eating foods with calcium. And vitamin D makes sure the calcium in your blood actually gets into your bones, muscles, other tissues, and cells…where you need it!

Wealth of studies show importance of more vitamin D

Again, as I often report, massive amounts of research over the last decade link higher vitamin D levels with lower risks of cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality, and improved immune system function.

Of course, your skin activates vitamin D production naturally upon exposure to sunlight. But dermatologists’ misguided advice over the past several decades has made people fear the sun and slather on useless sunscreens any time they go out in it.

You can try to get more vitamin D from your diet. Indeed, dairy foods and wild-caught fish (but not farmed) provide some vitamin D. But the nutrient content of all commercial foods has steadily declined over the decades. Plus, not enough people eat sufficient whole dairy foods and seafood to significantly raise their blood levels of vitamin D.

Interestingly, the data used in the new analysis relate only to doses of vitamin D intake. It didn’t include data on vitamin D levels in blood and tissues, which is what really counts when it comes to health outcomes.

Sometimes, you might wonder (like I do) how “fake news” like this analysis even makes it onto the wire.

My advice?

Continue supplementing with 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily. And put this headline out to pasture, where it belongs.



“Trends in Use of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplements Exceeding 1000 or 4000 International Units Daily, 1999-2014,” JAMA 2017;317(23):2448-2450