Vitamin D Supplements

To better appreciate the value of vitamin D, see this list of 25 benefits. This links to an excellent article on vitamin D that I highly recommend. The evidence of the benefits from vitamin D is now overwhelming and it presents an exciting opportunity to improve our health with one easy step. If we aren’t getting sufficient sunshine, it seems we’d darned well better be supplementing vitamin D.

Supplement doses. Everyone is an individual and testing is the best way to know how much vitamin D you need. On average, it takes most people an intake of 5,000 to 7,000 IU per day to reach optimum  blood levels of 70-80 ng/ml. The dose is the total of what is in our diet, multiple vitamin, bone formulas and other supplements. Note that vitamin D isn’t utilized as well if a person is low in the mineral magnesium. Those who take statin type cholesterols drugs should be careful because those drugs remove what vitamin D is made of. Research shows statins can lower blood levels of vitamin D. You might find this vitamin D calculator of interest.

For children, the government recommends a dose of 400 IU a day, but they are mainly trying to prevent bone-deforming rickets.  Dr. Pizzorno points to a study showing that, after 2 years on that dose, most children were still not into an optimum range. A Japanese study had good results with flu prevention and asthma at 1,200 IU per day. Some children may need more, especially if the only light their skin gets is from the glow of the video game display! Research showed that 2,000 IU per day was safe for adolescents. Be cautious with the liquid vitamin D drops because it’s easy to give too much.

Safety. Some doctors use single prescriptions of 50,000 IU per week to play catch up for very low levels but, that is not a maintenance plan that mimics nature. During the summer, in the midday sun in a bathing suit, we’d make 10,000 IU in just a few minutes. Research shows that supplemental doses of Vitamin D3 up to 10,000 IU per day are safe for adults for extended periods. French researchers gave adolescents single doses of 200,000 IU’s in the winter with no side effects observed.  Dr. Cannell (founder of the non-profit Vitamin D Council) told me that he takes 200,000 IU of vitamin D3 for one day at the first sign of an illness and scares it away.

We have been warned to stay out of the sun because of the risk for skin cancer. However, a study completed in South Africa showed that 90% of those suffering non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell or squamous) had blood levels that were deficient or at least sub-optimal in vitamin D. That makes sense because vitamin D is crucial for the immune system. Vitamin D3 is very safe and the biggest risk is from not having enough. Reports of toxicity are usually regarding patients whose physicians prescribed overly aggressive treatments of the active form of vitamin D (not store-bought supplements). Of course, you can overdo anything and one rare exception to the safety rule is that Sarcoidosis patients don’t tolerate vitamin D3 supplements very well.

Testing. About the only way currently to know if we are getting enough vitamin D is to test blood levels. The test is called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test or 25(OH)D. Be advised that doctors and patients are often misled by the “normal ranges” printed on the report. Those standards can be too low according to most experts. (Labs don’t look for perfectly healthy bodies when establishing the norms—they average anyone well enough to walk in.)  Optimum blood levels appear to be 70-80 ng/ml. Outdoor workers average 65+. The safe upper limit is 100. The lowest documented toxicity is 150. Certain toxicity does not hit until 200 and at that point the body will absorb an unhealthy amount of calcium.


Study shows better survival from colon cancer with higher doses of vitamin D compared to standard dose.

My review of a November 2018 study.

Read my June 21, 2018 blog about the so-called debate.

Breast cancer risk 80% lower with D blood levels above 60

5 times the risk of diabetes if vitamin D is low

Seniors 3 times more likely to be dependent (versus independent) if low in D

Article – The big vitamin D mistake.

Another study proposes daily intake of 7,000 IU. Researchers believe early recommendations were flawed.

Please watch this short and very exciting Charles Gibson ABC News report about Vitamin D’s important role in reducing breast cancer, its spread and deaths from the disease. Click here.

Even mild insufficiency of vitamin D worsens surgical outcomes and pneumonia in children. LINK.

The media is quick to jump on recommendations to use sunscreen but they usually forget to mention vitamin D.

Radio interview:
John Cannell, MD

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