When I started writing about vitamin D about eight years ago, 400 IU per day was considered the maximum “safe” dose, and the medical establishment raged against researchers who were showing that people need vastly more – and that high doses were often nothing short of a miracle cure in treating a variety of health conditions.
How times change. Now the medical establishment has done a complete about face, and more than likely your own local MD is telling you to take much more than 400 IU.
But the question is, how much more? On that subject, controversy continues. . .
A Special Message from Lee Euler, Editor
Could your blood sugar
75 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, according to Dr. Adit Ginde of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.1
Dr. John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, goes even further. He thinks 90 percent of Americans are deficient.
A blood test is the only way to find out if you’re getting enough.
Measuring your vitamin D
Everyone absorbs vitamin D differently. The key isn’t how many IUs you take, but how much you have at your disposal.
Instead of falling for the line that you don’t need more vitamin D, ask your doctor to order a “25-hydroxyvitamin D” test to see how much usable vitamin D you have in your blood.
When you get the test back, bear in mind…
Many doctors mistakenly aim for vitamin D levels in the 20 to 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) range. Vitamin D experts believe this is half – or less than half — of what you really need to prevent disease.2
These days, maybe most doctors would consider 40 ng/ml normal and perfectly safe. But you can actually go as high as 70 to 90 ng/ml without danger.3
Dr. Lucinda Messner, a naturopathic doctor we’ve interviewed, told us there’s no danger of vitamin D toxicity in an adult until the 160 ng/ml level. And such a high level is nearly unheard of. She’s tested the D levels of thousands of patients and found the 160-plus level in only one patient.
Nearly everyone she’s ever tested was in the 10’s, 20’s or 30’s. She rarely encounters anyone over 40 ng/ml – and people with that level are nearly always taking a daily 1000 IU supplement. She believes cancer patients can (and should) aim for a vitamin D blood level of 90 to 100 ng/ml.
In other words – virtually no one is anywhere near a toxic level of vitamin D in their body. On the contrary, nearly all of us are severely deficient.
Dr. Messner is the author of a book called Powerful Medicine: Shedding Light on a Worldwide Health Crisis. You can check out her detailed recommendations for D supplementation for cancer patients, although the book was written in 2003 and she says it’s in need of updating.
I agree with her in general. If you have cancer or heart disease, you want to be in the therapeutic 70 to 100 ng/ml range.4
What can D do for you? Practically everything. . .
Vitamin D slashes your risk of serious illnesses – including but not limited to autoimmune diseases, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And it deals a real blow to chronic inflammation, which is implicated in nearly every chronic disease.
As if that weren’t enough, vitamin D also improves muscle function, keeps your immune system healthy, balances your insulin, and phosphorus levels, and helps you absorb calcium, thereby keeping your bones strong and preventing fractures
The myth of vitamin D toxicity…
What gave rise to the notion that vitamin D could harm you?
In the 1930s, European countries started fortifying foods with vitamin D (which was then believed to be the “miracle vitamin”). But 20 years later, when British children had too much calcium in their blood, doctors mistakenly blamed vitamin D.5
During the 1980s, doctors in India treated tuberculosis patients with 3,800 IU of vitamin D per day for three months. Their patients developed dangerously high levels of calcium. They also blamed vitamin D.
This all led the US government to declare that 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily could be toxic.
But they forgot that excessively high calcium levels are common in tuberculosis patients. Perhaps it wasn’t vitamin D’s fault after all…
Finally in 1999 Dr. Reinhold Vieth, a University of Toronto researcher, conducted a study showing that 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily appeared safe. While that may sound high, it’s what you’d get by sitting in a bathing suit in July for just 15 minutes without sunscreen.
Today, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU daily for healthy bones.
Drs. Cannell, Robert P. Heaney (Creighton University in Omaha), and Michael F. Holick (Boston Medical Center) recommend 1,000 to 3,000 IU daily.
The Endocrine Society says infants need 400 to 1,000 IU, children and teens need 600 to 1,000 IU, and adults need 1,500 to 2,000 IU.
Some studies contradict the good news
To complicate matters, a recent study published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, seems to suggest that vitamin D has no benefit or positive effect on bone density. Vitamin D helped none of the 32 women in the trial reduce their risk of myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, cancer, or hip fracture.6
The study’s lead author, Dr. Mark Bolland from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, said there is “little justification currently for prescribing vitamin D to prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer, or fractures in otherwise-healthy people.”7
But a study size of just 32 women is pretty small. Does it really tell us anything?
On the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Cedric F. Garland (University of California, San Diego) says colon cancer cases could be cut in half if people took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily. And breast cancer cases could also be cut in half if women took 3,500 IU of vitamin D daily.8 Dr. Garland is a longtime enthusiast for vitamin D.
Personally, I take 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily, and I still have lower vitamin D levels than the “therapeutic” target range. I’m taking it under the direction of an integrative M.D., who tells me my blood levels are still not up to the ideal 60 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
So… who’s right?
Vitamin D protects you from getting the cold and the flu. It strengthens your bones and muscles. It lowers your risk of cancer.
So why do a few researchers still insist vitamin D does not reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or bone fractures?
Well… blame that on two things:
- Some poorly-informed doctors still prescribe vitamin D2, which is harder for your body to absorb and less effective than vitamin D3. What you get from the sun is D3.
- Most researchers use 400-800 IU a day in their studies. This amount is too small to be effective. It’s not clinically relevant.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 used higher amounts of vitamin D with great success.
During the four-year study, women who took 1,100 IU of vitamin D and 1,450 IU of calcium daily were 77 percent less likely to be diagnosed with cancer.9
When doctors gave Japanese school children 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily, the children were 42 percent less likely to get the flu and 83 percent less likely to suffer asthma attacks than those who received placebo pills.10
How to boost your vitamin D
Sitting in the sun for 20 minutes during summer in a bathing suit without sunscreen will give you the best quality vitamin D. And from what I can learn, there is NO danger of toxicity from the vitamin D your own body makes when exposed to sunlight.
But you may not have much choice but to take an oral supplement in the winter, especially if you live in the north.
Make sure you choose vitamin D3 – not the vitamin D2 (which is what’s used to fortify milk and some other foods). Also make sure you take vitamin K2 with your D, to keep calcium from building up in your arteries and soft tissue.
Let the debate rage on, while you get healthier
Some people believe the vitamin D “controversy” will end once and for all when a current large-scale study called VITAL releases its findings in 2017.11 Given the medical establishment’s knack of manipulating such studies, I’m not so confident.
I’ll certainly review those findings when they come, but there’s little doubt in my mind that vitamin D plays a huge role in boosting the body’s ability to fight cancer and other diseases naturally.
Changing topics now. . .if you don’t know that aspirin originally came from a plant – and that the same plant may be a better, safer pain-killer than the drug – then you missed our last issue. Read the news now, just below.