Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3: A Must-Have Supplement?

written by Vin Kutty

comments 25 comments

Why You May Need a More Vitamin D Than the Govt Recommends

Vitamin D and sunshine
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) really blew it.

I’m talking about their Vitamin D decision.

The IOM is a non-profit scientific body that determines the how much of each nutrient is necessary for your health.

Vitamin D has gained more scientific credibility in the last few years than any other nutrient, with the possible exception of Omega-3 fish oils.

Vitamin D deficiency is connected to just about every age-related condition.

Yet, when the IOM got together in 2010 to decide if Vitamin D levels should be increased from 400 units a day, they blew it and stayed conservative. Way too conservative in my opinion. They increased the daily dosage to 600 units per day.

‘That’s a 50% increase,’ was the IOM’s defense when bombarded with criticism.

Yeah, but…the current scientific research says we should be getting anywhere from 2000 to 4000 units a day at a minimum. It’s a bit like fish oil in that sense. What’s in most pills is no where enough to make you actually feel better.

If the IOM had gone with 2000 unit recommendation per day, that would make most Americans deficient. And that would require admitting that there was a major health problem and that means policy change.

Why are we so Vitamin D deficient?

  1. We don’t get enough from our diet. Our bodies weren’t supposed to get their D from diet alone. We were meant to get most of it from sun exposure.
  2. We avoid the sun and apply too much sunscreen. The sunscreen industry is partly to blame here.
  3. We don’t drink as much milk as we used to (this is not a bad thing!)

There would be no need for Vitamin D supplementation if we all worked out in the fields like our ancestors did. But most of us spend our time indoors. And when we go out in the sun, we are so panicked about sunburns and wrinkles that we lather on high-SPF sunscreen.

Sunscreens and Vitamin D Deficiency

Unless you’re a lifeguard on Miami Beach, you’re not getting enough sun to make sufficient Vitamin D.

Here’s something to think about: why did the IOM only recommend 600 units when a fair-skinned person can make 10,000 units from less than an hour of summer-time sun exposure? May be the IOM thinks we all hang out by the pool in our bathing suits all summer long. We should. It’d be nice if we could, wouldn’t it?

But our lives are such that we don’t get enough sun and we don’t eat foods rich in Vitamin D – fish, oysters, dairy and mushrooms.

Vitamin D Council

Dr. John Cannell of the non-profit Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 units per day for adults. That’s 8 times more than what the government recommends. The Vitamin D Council is also in the process of suing the FDA for their low recommendation. Nuff said.

Is is possible to overdose on Vitamin D?

Individual responses vary. Remember that Vitamin D is a hormone, so an excess can theoretically cause several issues.

Under my doctor’s supervision, I took 20,000 IU of D3 per day in an experiment. I noticed nothing wrong initially, but after 3 weeks, I completely lost my ability to fall asleep. After 2 sleepless nights, my doctor told me to discontinue the D3. After enduring 5 more completely sleepless night, I began to sleep normally. Let that be a lesson – more is not always better.

Many people are understandably concerned about taking too much Vitamin D and possibly overdosing.

Most studies begin to show negative effects at 30,000 units per day. So 5,000 units a day is well below that limit.

Dr. Bruce Hollis, a pediatrician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has been giving pregnant women 4000 units per day. “We haven’t seen a single adverse event on those levels that would lead us to say there is any harm in doing it,” Dr. Hollis says.

If baking in the mid-day sun sounds uncomfortable, then you should definitely consider supplementing.*

And here’s the clincher: scientists who study Vitamin D on average take close to what the Vitamin D Council recommends.

It is also important to remember that Vitamins A, D, E and K are related. You should not take one without the others. If you have adequate levels of A, it is very difficult to overdose with D.*

Similarly, Vit D will not prevent colds if you do not take A along with it. The science on this is still unclear.*

What kind should you buy?

Buy Vitamin D3. There is a D2 form, which comes from irradiated mushrooms. D2 is not the kind humans need. D3 on the other hand is the form that your body can absorb and is made from wool.

If you are diagnosed with low D, your doctor will give you a prescription for D2. Yes, the prescription Vitamin D is not the better of the two. Oh well. Now you know.

Prescription Vitamin D

If you’re deficient in D, you are MUCH better off taking over-the-counter D3 supplement than the expensive, poorly-absorbed prescription (Ergocalciferol) D2.

Oh, you can overdose on D2 but unlikely to with D3, if taken at similar levels. Your doctor will not likely know this and the same goes for your pharmacist. Awareness is just building, so cut them some slack.*

Tablet, capsules or softgels?

Buy the oily softgels. Powders and tablets are not as well absorbed.

Which brand to buy?

Most of the major brands are fine. It is a very cheap raw material and there is no need for manufacturers to adulterate. Just about every product I’ve seen has been good. You could probably find a one-year supply for under $20. And the pills are so small that no one should have problems swallowing it.

How much Vitamin D3?

First – get your D level tested by your doctor. D3 is a hormone. More is not better. You can hurt yourself with too much. So, work with your doctor.

I take 5000 units a day. D3 is part of my daily routine, along with fish oil and magnesium. If you’re deficient, you will probably need 10,000 units a day for a few weeks before you can go down to 5000 units a day. Some people I know take it only during the winter time and that’s fine too.

[Get your D measured the next time you go in for a blood test. More is not always better. If you have hyperparathyroidism, you can develop a condition where you have too much calcium in your blood – not good. So keep your doctor in the loop.]

I’ve known way too many miserable, sickly people who were given all kinds of medications because their D deficiency had been undiagnosed. But after switching doctors and a Vitamin D blood test, it turned out that they were just horribly Vitamin D deficient. After taking 50,000 units a week for a couple of months, they “magically” turned back into their happy, charming selves.*

This is why if you’re suffering from any chronic disease, you and your doctor first need to rule out simple nutritional deficiencies before getting out the big guns.*

Of course, even if you’re not deficient in any nutrient, chronic disease can easily be caused by too much ‘bad stuff’ like sugar, wheat or Omega-6 rich vegetable oils.

Let’s create the ultimate theoretical bad food: wheat flour fried in vegetable oil and coated in sugar. Oh wait…that’s not theoretical. That’s a donut! OK, if you don’t have any nutrient deficiencies but still eat a few donuts a day, you could develop chronic disease. But enough of that.

Just take your Vitamin D3 pills, please!


Here’s a link to a very good video from University of California TV, ‘Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease,’ presented by Dr. David Sane, M.D.

Amusing and insightful highlights from the lecture:

“As cardiologists, we tend to be fairly skeptical of simple, non-invasive treatment.” [Big knowing laughs from other cardiologists in the audience] “OK, I shouldn’t have said that. I take that back. [Joking]


“In just the last 2 to 3 years, there has been an explosion of data on the cardiovascular frontier on Vitamin D.”


* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

  1. Hey Vin I had a question about Vitamin D supplements, there is this article about it which is quite anti-vitamin d supplements and criticizes the vitamin d council and other things, what do you think about it http://thepeopleschemist.com/stinky-sulfur-award-unapproved-drug-disguised-vitamin/

    Also how much vitamin d should be taken if you are 18 years old, living in England (not much sunny weather and not out very much when it is sunny), how much can be taken without having any vitamin d tests being done? Would 5000 be good or would 2000 be good if not being blood tested though quite sure of not reciveving anywhere enough sun

    • Hi Pentaxltd – the article you reference should not be taken seriously. One of the reasons the author says low Vitamin D status is OK is based on a study of Vitamin D status of women in Bangladesh. If I may point out, Bangladesh is Islamic and most women in Islamic countries cover themselves with clothing. Their Vitamin D levels are going to be dangerously low. The study said it was about 16 ng/ml.

      Another study cited sub-polar Canadians having 23 ng/ml. Again, the people lead a sun-free live for almost 5 months of the year. The only reason these Canadians had 23 ng/ml is that they eat a fairly decent diet with Vitamin D fortified foods. It is lunacy to look at these populations as standards! What next, following Vitamin D levels of Afghan women or prisoners in solitary confinement as a standard? They don’t get much sun!

      Even the study of Hawaiians is not a fair measurement – most Hawaiians I know are not in the sun all day long. Our bodies are a result of hunter-gatherer ancestry/evolution. There are other (much better) studies of Masai tribesmen in Africa etc. that are better standards of what our Vitamin D status should be. The key is to find traditional living societies. Based on those studies, it looks like we need to be in the 40-50 ng/ml range. Here is the reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22264449

      My suggestion to you would be get tested. Then do what you must to get it to at least 30 ng/ml. 40-50 would be better. It’s pointless to guess or suggest a dosage without know your Vitamin D level. Please talk to your doctor.

      Yes, the Vitamin D council is a bit aggressive in its recommendation but i admire their work and they’ve done a lot of good. And anyone who dismisses Dr. Holick’s work on Vitamin D has an agenda that’s contrary to truth. For what it’s worth, Dr. Holick suggests we all take between 3000 and 4000 IU per day.

      Nothing beats sunshine for Vitamin D production. Unless you live in England or other northern countries and/or are dark-skinned. Dark-skinned people need direct equatorial sun to make adequate Vitamin D. Dark-skinned immigrants to Canada, UK, Scandinavia etc. are usually deficient without Vit D supplements.

  2. Okay so Vitamin D is good ;D but if I was not to get a vitamin d blood test would there be any dosage which would be good which does not involve monitoring? I am 18 years old live in england rarely get any sunshine and dark skinned, also would this amount provide any mood benefits?

    • Hi Pentaxltd – if you were not to get a blood test, you’d be guessing and flying blind. Since you live in England (not much sun) and don’t get much sunshine and are dark-skinned, I’d be willing to wager a large sum of money that you are Vitamin D3 deficient. I take 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 almost every day.

  3. Can I take a multi-vitamin such as women’s one a day along with fish oil containing d3 2000IU??? I am 30 my bones are starting to creak so to say and I heard the fish oil is good for memory which I deff. Could use a boost in that area. I’m. Not in the sun much and I drink milk maybe once a week.

  4. Hmm okay so without a blood test although not good at monitoring it and highly likely of vitamin deficiency, would a 2000iu or 2600iu be good as it will likely be beneficial if someone has very little vitamin d a day and it is still within the conversative estimates of certain medical associations

  5. Im 18 years old and I’m vitamin D deficient and before I knew this I would take one a day women’s multivitamin. My doctor recommended that I take 5000 units of vitamin D. So I bought the D3 supplement and was wondering if I could continue taking the one a day multivitamin which contains 1000 units of vitamin D in addition to the 5000 units of D3? Would I be consuming too much vitamin D? I also live in California so it’s pretty sunny most of the time.

    • Hi Unique – since you were diagnosed deficient in Vitamin D, it makes sense that your doctor put you on 5000 IU per day. And 6000 IU per day is not that much.

      If you are a light skinned caucasian, your skin can make 10,000 IU in about an hour if you go to the beach in the summertime – without sunscreen, of course. So 6000 IU is not that high. Since you are under your doctor’s care, check with them before you make any changes. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, then you may be able to drop down to 2000 IU per day during the warmer months.

      My advice is not to guess – get tested every 6 months. And this summer, get a lot of mid-day sun exposure with sunscreen just on your face and arms – expose the rest of your body to full direct sun.

  6. I have(had) low Vitamin D. My physician told me to ask the pharmacist for a product named Maximum D3($6/5pills). It comes in a 10,000iu unit gelcap. He told me to take it 3 times a week for 8 weeks and then just once a week. I went from 20 to 48 on the D-test and now am maintaining that level. I feel alot better.
    I also have actinic keratoses what do I need to do with my diet to get rid of these tiny sores? Will OmegaVia help?

  7. Hi Vin,

    I’ve just happened upon your site this week and I’m really enjoying the wealth of information.

    I’m curious if there’s a product that might combine D3, A, E and K2 that you could recommend? And in about what ratios? I’m 30 and hoping to conceive a second child this year, we live in the northern US with long winters and I usually supplement with D3 – my 2 year old takes Carlson’s D drops as well, but I’d like to give him a combined D3/K2.

    Also, what are your thoughts on the K shot routinely administered to newborns? There’s a lot of controversy in the natural world about its necessity.

    • Hi Chelsea – glad you’re finding this forum informative. There is no ideal product that combines all 4 fat-soluble vitamins. I’ll recommend a product to you, but it has limitations.

      Here’s the problem with combining these 4 vitamins into one pill:

      1) It’s be a pretty big pill by the time you got done adding Vitamin E complex, which is a mix of 4 different tocopherols and 4 different tocotrieneols.

      2) Each person requires a different level of Vitamin D3 to get to optimal, depending on where they live, how much sun they get, and their existing blood levels. Optimal levels of D varies from person to person. I write the above article a LONG time ago. Since then, I’ve experimented (with my doctor’s help, of course!) with D3 levels. If I try to increase it too quickly with, say, 20,000 IU per day, I will completely stop sleeping for about a week. I also do best with blood levels around 50-60. Some people sleep problems start to sleep like babies once they get their blood levels to about 75. That would not work for me. Your mileage will invariably vary. Having said all that, putting a standard 5000 IU dose or a still-weak 2000 IU dose into a pill may not work for a lot of people.

      3) Most Vitamin K2 products are in the MK-7 form. This is very short-sighted. You MUST HAVE MK-4 form of K2 as well. More on that here: https://omegavia.com/how-to-choose-the-right-vitamin-k2-supplement/ Again, the dose you need may be different from what I need or what a person with osteoporosis or arterial calcification might need.

      4) Combining these 4 will make for a really expensive product. But companies have tried it – take a look at Nutricology D3 complex. It has all the flaws I mention above, but at least it has tiny bits of all of the above in one pill. I suppose it is better than nothing.

      I take the following daily on weekdays and skip weekends:
      InnovixLabs Full Spectrum K2
      NOW Foods Vitamin A 25000 IU
      Jarrow D3 5000 IU
      Jarrow FamilE

      I’ve seen decent rationale for combining A to D in 10:1 to 5:1 ratios. The science on these ratios is not conclusive though. As of now, I am not clear on what ratios the other two families K2 Complex and E Complex need to be in. It’s early-early days. The government has not even distinguished K1 from K2, let along the sub-forms of K2.

      My thoughts on K1 shot for newborns is that it’s probably not critical if the mother has an ideal diet and is not taking K1-inhibiting medications. But I don’t know any pregnant mother who has an ideal diet. Newborns are prone to Vitamin K1 deficiency related bleeding because mom is not passing on enough through breast milk or has switched to formula that may not have any K1. And newborns haven’t been alive long enough to build up stores of this Vitamin. The problem is almost always seen in newborns when the mother has been taking medications that wipe out her Vitamin K stores, so the baby is born acutely deficient. The meds could be anti-convulsants, antibiotics, anti-coagulants, anti-tuberculosis etc. If the mother is taking one of these drugs (most moms get an antibiotic shot before delivery), the chances of newborns developing this problem is much higher. Anti-coagulants like warfarin and coumadin work by creating a K1 deficiency and it’s a good thing that a lot of pregnant women are not given these drugs. As much as 1 in 10. When the mother is healthy and not given ANY of these medications, and the baby is breast fed, the chances are 1 in 20,000 or less. I find it both sad and amusing that people without all the facts tend to have the strongest opinions on this topic…as is often the case.

      • Thanks so much for your reply. What are your thoughts on The Root Cause Protocol by Morley Robbins & Dr. Ben Edwards who recommends no vitamin supplementation but rather more minerals etc.? Also, I’ve been surprised by your recommendation of NaturalCalm magnesium when there was arsenic detected in it by LabDoor. I don’t claim any expertise but I’m trying to learn all I can and make the best decisions for myself and my children. Your thoughts are appreciated.

        • Hi Chelsea – the Natural Calm and Labdoor issue. First the comforting facts.

          1) If any product is sold in the state of California, and Natural Calm is, it has to comply with California Prop 65 limits for heavy metals. This is a very stringent level. If Natural Calm fails this, they’d either post a warning on their product stating so or they’d be breaking the law. As of now, Natural Calm is compliant of California Prop 65.

          2) Virtually all minerals are refined from natural resources or the earth. So, you cannot have zero-point-zero levels of heavy metals. If it comes from the earth, be it a tomato or cow’s milk, there will be some heavy metal naturally present. This is where strict regulations like Prop 65 can help.

          3) There was a spat between the makers of Natural Calm and Labdoor that some of us in the industry were fascinated by. Both Labdoor and Natural Calm used the same lab to get different results. Natural Calm says it was a reporting error. Labdoor called BS.

          Our initial experience with Labdoor from 4 or so years ago was not positive. They butchered an analysis of OmegaVia and ranked it very low on their fish oil list. They would not budge until lawyers got involved. OmegaVia’s ranking shot up to #4 out of 54. But even now, I believe the ranking algorithm is seriously flawed.

          My recommendation of Natural Calm is many, many years old. That was even before our sister company began selling magnesium: https://innovixlabs.com/products/advanced-magnesium/ FWIW, the #1 ranked Magnesium product on Labdoor contains mostly Magnesium oxide, which is very poorly absorbed and as good as swallowing a pebble.

          I am not familiar with the Root Cause Protocol you mention. I like the idea behind addressing root causes of all diseases. It is not something our medical system focuses on. But it should. However, the particular plan you mention (based on their website home page) suggests that “all cellular dysfunction is caused by an imbalance in magnesium, copper, and iron.” A LOT of health conditions are influenced by these three minerals. Very few of us get the optimal amount of these. There is a kernel of truth to this protocol, but health and life are so much more complex than what the website claims it to be. Addressing insufficiency or excess of these three minerals may help some conditions, but it will not cure their long list of diseases. Take Hashimotos for example – there are so many things to address before it can be mitigated. It is a methodical medical process that requires a doctor addressing several root causes INCLUDING these three minerals, as well as a few other minerals. These three minerals are a small piece of the puzzle. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

          • Thank you kindly. I feel I am swimming in the ocean in this area of health! Your input is most appreciated. I was suspecting LabDoor a bit based on their rankings of some other products I have always trusted.

  8. Hello Vin! Please specify the proper dosage of A, D3 and E for 3 y.o. (13kg) and 11 y.o (26kg) girls in case we take Thorne K2 and Omega 3 1200mg for elder child and 500mg for little one. Thank you for response

    • Hi Maria – Vitamins A and E are best derived from food and D3 from sun exposure. However, if you are starting your winter season and your kids are already deficient, their D levels will be unacceptably low by March and April.

      Most adults need about 4000 IU of D3 daily to maintain healthy levels. So you will have to estimate how much your kids need based on their weight. My guess is that the younger one will need about 500 IU per day and the older one about 1000 IU. You should consider getting Vitamin D3 drops for them.

      Lately, I have been giving my kids 20,000 IU of Vitamin A (made from fish liver) once a week. If their diet is poor during vacation or traveling, I may give them two per week after coming back home.

  9. Thank you for quick response! The elder one has problem with nails: waved and deformed they don’t grow properly …Also her vision becomes worse last time. The doctors try to solve separately, but I suppose it is connected with vit A level and maybe Omega 3. One more issue is that she had a hard allergy on fish earlier and maybe fish oil we take isn’t digested properly…I try to find the right combination of support. Maybe you could advice the way we should focus on? I’ve read many of your articles and I understand that the main thing is food, but because of allergy she doesn’t eat wide range of products…Maybe we should focus first on allergy reasons and gut health?…

    • Hi Maria – nails, hair, and skin are good, but under-utilized indicators of nutrition. From what you have said above, I think you are making a mistake looking at supplements first. You should be working with a dietitian to create meal plans that addresses both nutrient requirement as well as avoid allergens. Please find someone in your area who can help or use Skype to get help from a qualified nutritionist or dietitian from another place or even another country. Nutritional therapy can easily be done across national borders. It’s easy and worth the time and money.

Leave a Reply