A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in June and featured in a recent Good Morning America segment has claimed that Americans are taking too much vitamin D, defined as over 4,000 IU per day.
The study warns that too much vitamin D can lead to health issues like elevated blood calcium levels, calcifications, and kidney stones.
So, of course, people are panicking and wondering if they should continue vitamin D supplementation.
My response: Calm down. Like many others before it, this latest “scare-story” does not paint a complete picture.
Here’s what you need to know.
Where did the RDI come from in the first place?
According to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), in order to maintain a blood serum level of 20 ng/mL of vitamin D (which they established as adequate for bone health) the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin D should be 600 IU for people under 70 years of age, and 800 IU for people 70 and over.
But several experts have come forward, including cancer researcher and statistician Keith Baggerly, Ph.D. and pointed out that NAM made a serious calculation error in establishing these values, and that 30 ng/mL is a more realistic level for bone health. Had the calculations been done correctly, the RDI would likely be up to 10 times greater than it is! (In this case, 6,000 IU and 8,000 IU, respectively.)
Plus even if a blood level of 30 ng/mL is adequate for bone health that leaves no vitamin D left over for immune support, cancer prevention or protection against heart disease—it is the bare bones minimum (no pun intended).
Just to give you some perspective, a study of a native African tribe (known for their strength and good health) showed their vitamin D levels were in the 40 to 60 ng/mL range, which is the range suggested by many vitamin D experts for overall good health.
What this study ignored
Now that you know the vitamin D RDI is questionable, to begin with, let’s look at the latest “study.”
This study merely looked at how much vitamin D people were taking, and compared that to the RDIs of 600 IU and 800 IU.
It did NOT examine people’s vitamin D intake levels and then look to see if they truly DID suffer toxicity-related health consequences!
So the actual number of documented toxicity reactions in this study is a big fat goose egg—but let’s scare everyone anyway because it sells magazines or raises our ratings.
Plus there was no mention of blood serum levels of vitamin D. Everyone is different (a concept called our biochemical individuality), and the amount of vitamin D intake necessary to maintain a serum level of 30 ng/mL can vary greatly from person to person—it’s not one size fits all!
This is especially true with people that have issues that reduce absorption, including leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, an unhealthy gut microbiome, eating a low-fat diet (because vitamin D is fat-soluble) or use of acid reducers.
What about the sun and food sources of vitamin D?
Your skin produces vitamin D when you’re in the sun, but the key is your skin must be unprotected.
Well, since people are terrified they’ll get skin cancer if they don’t slather themselves in sunscreen every time they go outside, many of us are running short in our skin’s vitamin D production.
Food sources of vitamin D are limited. Fish like swordfish, salmon, and tuna have the most (between 400-600 IU), but that’s not something the average person eats 7 days a week.
Milk and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D, meaning it’s basically the same as a supplement. And it’s far less than what you need—orange juice weighs in at 125 IU per serving and milk at about 100 IU.
So clearly it would be very difficult to get adequate vitamin D from your diet alone.
One thing that cannot be disputed is that vitamin D is critical for overall health.
So here is a smart plan to help make sure you have what you need:
Have your doctor do a test to see what your blood serum level of vitamin D is. Keep in mind that most tests consider 20 ng/mL “normal” but a more realistic blood level of vitamin D is at least 30 ng/mL, and up to 40-60 ng/mL.
Supplement with a quality formula
If you are low in vitamin D, the best way to ensure you have (truly health-supporting) levels are to supplement…but be sure to choose a formula that contains both vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 like Optimum DK Formula with FruiteX-B.
The risk of developing calcifications from supplementation (which the above study cautioned about) is mitigated by taking vitamin D supplements that also contain vitamin K2. While vitamin D can lead to increased absorption of calcium, its partner K2 helps keep the calcium where it belongs—instead of building up in the wrong places!
Once you decide on a supplement regimen, have your doctor do a retest a few months later to see where you stand. Everyone is different, and you may need to adjust your supplement dose up or down depending on how your body is absorbing the vitamin D.
Get healthy fats in your diet
Vitamins D and K are fat-soluble, so this is yet another reason to stay far away from low-fat diets—you won’t be able to absorb and use these crucial nutrients like you should!
Here are wise fat choices to make sure your body is getting a good representation of the saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats it needs:
Good for cooking: Real butter (both salted and unsalted), lard, tallow, coconut oil, peanut oil, palm oil and olive oil. These are nice stable fats that won’t oxidize when heated.
Good for salads and cold dishes: Olive oil, organic nut oils.
Tasty food sources of fats: Red meat, eggs, butter, avocado, nuts, olives, cheese and wild-caught fish.
Consider supplementing: Omega-3 essential fatty acids (like VitalMega-3 fish oil formula)—because our food supply does not contain the levels of these natural anti-inflammatories that it used to.
To your health,
The information in our articles are NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice.