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RDA for Vitamin D Miscalculated by Institute of Medicine

Filed in Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/28/2015

In 2011 the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of vitamin D from 400 to 600 IU for people aged 1 to 70. This was a welcomed increase, but many experts argued that it was not enough and recommended doses over 1,000 IU daily. In a recent paper published in the journal Nature, researchers state that the IOM’s 2011 vitamin D RDA—which doctors across the country are basing their vitamin D recommendations on—was miscalculated.

They attempted to calculate the dose that would need to be given to achieve a vitamin D blood level of at least 20 ng/mL in 97.5 percent of the population, the blood level determined to be adequate by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB).* The problem is that the FNB used group averages instead of individual averages to calculate the RDA. Using individual averages, a dose of 600 IU would only achieve a blood level of 11 ng/mL for 97.5 percent of the population, a level considered to be a deficiency.

Using the correct statistical calculations, the researchers estimated that a dose of 8,895 IU/day—almost 15 times the current recommendations—would be needed to achieve blood levels of 20 ng/mL or more.

“The public health and clinical implications of an error in the calculation of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D are serious,” noted Paul Veugelers, PhD, an author of the paper. “Current public health targets are not being met.”

In another paper by the same researchers in conjunction with other prominent vitamin D researchers, a re-evaluation of the vitamin D RDA to account for body weight was also called for. As it turns out, overweight and obese individuals require much higher vitamin D doses (in the range of 12,000 to 20,000 IU daily) to achieve the same blood level as their lean counterparts. “We recommend clinical guidelines for vitamin D supplementation be specific for normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals,” they noted.

Vitamin D supplementation is something I recommend for almost everyone. Dr. Smith and I have blogged many times on the benefits of optimizing your vitamin D level. The Vitamin D Council is an excellent resource for more information on this essential nutrient.


*(Many experts feel that this “adequate” level is anything but, and recommend at least 50 ng/mL as an optimal level.)

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Dementia

Filed in Alzheimer's, Dementia | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/15/2014

In addition to the everyday digestive support supplements that I recommend everyone take on a daily basis (whether or not they have “digestive” issues)—High fiber, Omega-3, Probiotics, and digestive Enyzmes (I call it the H.O.P.E. Formula)—I always recommend vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is very common, even in “healthy” people and in those who get regular sun exposure. (Sun is a major source of vitamin D.)

A recent study published in the journal Neurology found that people who are severely vitamin D deficient are more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as those with normal vitamin D levels. Even those people who were moderately deficient still had a 53 percent increased risk of dementia and a 69 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

“We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising—we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” stated David Llewellyn, PhD.

The study involved over 1,650 adults over the age of 65 who were free from dementia, cardiovascular disease, and stroke at the beginning of the study. They were followed for six years to determine who would develop dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” noted Llewellyn.

Daily supplementation with vitamin D is recommended for most people. Regular testing of vitamin D levels is helpful to determine what dosage you need. The Vitamin D Council is an excellent resource for all you need to know about vitamin D.

The Ups and Downs of Vitamin D Levels throughout the Year

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/02/2013

Your body can make vitamin D out of sunlight, a fact you may already know. Unfortunately, however, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The amount of vitamin D produced from sunlight depends on the time of year, time of day, where you live in the world, the color of your skin, how much skin is exposed, whether you are wearing sunscreen or not, and your body’s ability to convert vitamin D into its active form.

Unless it’s summertime, the skin makes little to no vitamin D at latitudes above 37 degrees. See this map to find your latitude. But even south of 37 degrees, it is very common to find people with insufficient vitamin D levels. There are many factors that determine vitamin D production from sunlight. The best way to attain a healthy vitamin D status is to get your level checked regularly and supplement with vitamin D accordingly.

A recent Mayo Clinic study published in the Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS ONE) journal found that vitamin D levels in the United States peak in August and hit an all-time low in February. “In this study, we have shown that vitamin D levels lag the solar cycle, peaking in August and troughing in February,” stated Amy Kasahara, a researcher of the study. “Even with food fortification, vitamin D levels in the population show a high level of seasonality due to the influence of sunlight.”

This study further supports the need for vitamin D supplementation. Fortunately, vitamin D is inexpensive and readily available. Be sure to test your vitamin D levels regularly. For most people, a level of at least 50 ng/mL is considered healthy.

Vitamin D for Children and Teens

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/19/2013

The wonders of vitamin D continue to amaze me as study after study links low vitamin D levels to poor health and vitamin D supplementation and optimal vitamin D levels to good health. This holds true in children and teens as well.

In two studies recently presented at The Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting, vitamin D again proved its importance to health during youth. In one study, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was linked to the early development of puberty in girls, suggesting that vitamin D supplementation may help to delay early puberty in these children.

Among 110 girls between the ages of 7 and 10, 35 had reached puberty early (before the age of 8). Of those girls, 44 percent had severe vitamin D deficiency compared to only 21 percent of the girls who had reached puberty at a normal age.  “Our results suggest that vitamin D may inhibit early pubertal onset and/or the rapid progression of puberty,” stated Sim Sum Kim, MD, PhD, lead researcher.

In the second study, 54 out of 86 studied children 10 to 18 years were overweight or obese. The researchers found that the higher the obesity, the higher the level of leptin and the lower the levels of adiponectin and vitamin D. Obese youth also had higher levels of allergy and inflammation markers that the researchers concluded, “seemed to depend on the vitamin D deficiency seen in the more obese patients, leading us to conclude that the increased risk for allergy in obesity may be mediated by vitamin D to some degree.”

These results are not surprising, given the vast number of conditions linked to vitamin D deficiency. It is my hope that doctors begin to test vitamin D levels at every age and stage of health to help make sure people are optimizing their vitamin D intake. Our health—and our children’s health—depends on it.

Low Vitamin D Leads to Weight Gain

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/15/2013

Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients that most people do not get enough of. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to a wide range of negative health conditions, and, on the flip side, adequate vitamin D levels have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. Not only is vitamin D good for healthy bones, but it also benefits immune function, heart health, brain function, healthy mood, and may even be helpful for weight loss.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with low vitamin D levels were at increased risk of becoming obese in the next four years, according to data analyzed from over 1,200 people who were followed over nine years. “The results of the present study suggest that lower [vitamin D levels] in obese subjects may not have been secondary to obesity, but may in fact precede obesity,” stated the researchers. This means that low vitamin D is not just linked to obesity, but is likely a cause of it.

Fat cells carry vitamin D receptors. This tells us that vitamin D plays an important role in fat cell function. Did you know that your fat tissue is actually considered an organ rather than a simple storage unit for fat? As we learn more, we see that vitamin D receptors are found on almost every cell in the body. It’s no wonder vitamin D is linked to so many health benefits.

Have you checked your vitamin D levels lately? If you have gained weight recently, or are having trouble losing weight, low vitamin D levels could be to blame. Optimal vitamin D levels are between 50 and 80 ng/mL.

Vitamin D and Diabetes Risk in Obese Children

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/17/2013

Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges in today’s world. Over one third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The obesity rate has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Obese children are at increased risk of having prediabetes, heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and bone and joint problems—all at such a young age.

That’s not all—obese children and adolescents are more likely to be obese adults, with the accompanying increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is largely to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic, but that’s a topic for another day. Today I want to mention the results of a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from the University of Missouri found that vitamin D supplements given to obese children with deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels helped control blood sugar by lowering insulin levels.

“By increasing vitamin D intake alone, we got a response that was nearly as powerful as what we have seen using a prescription drug,” noted Catherine Pearson, PhD, lead researcher. “We saw a decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake, or physical activity.” The study emphasized the importance of checking vitamin D levels, since they can vary.

“What makes vitamin D insufficiency different in obese individuals is that they process vitamin D about half as efficiently as normal-weight people,” stated Peterson. “The vitamin gets stored in their fat tissues, which keeps it from being processed. This means obese individuals need to take in about twice as much vitamin D as their lean peers to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D.” That’s interesting—being overweight can affect your vitamin D levels. It’s an important fact that is now well known.

Vitamin D is crucial to our overall health—children, adults, and elderly alike. If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels—and those of your children—tested, I suggest you do so.

Vitamin D Helpful for Colds, or Not?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/30/2013


Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that I highly recommend for just about everyone. Vitamin D levels are being found to be insufficient or deficient in people all over the world, including in the United States. By conventional medical standards, a vitamin D level (25-hydroxy vitamin D) of less than 12 ng/mL is considered deficient, and 20 ng/mL or higher is considered adequate. Many health experts disagree, however, stating that levels of at least 30 ng/mL (up to 50 ng/mL or more) are adequate for optimal health.

A number of studies have linked low vitamin D levels to increased risk of development of upper respiratory infections like cold and flu. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that supplementation with high doses of vitamin D (200,000 iu once a month for two months followed by 100,000 iu per month for 16 months) was not protective against the development of upper respiratory infections. The headlines, as you can imagine, sound like, “Vitamin D No Match for Common Cold” and “Trying to Avoid a Cold? Skip the Vitamin D Supplements.”

Please, please—I urge you to not toss your vitamin D supplements because of the headlines you read about this study. What these misleading headlines don’t tell you is that the people in this study started out with vitamin D levels at 29 ng/mL—sufficient levels. You can see that the study was set up to fail from the start. What might the researchers have found if they started with people who had lower vitamin D levels, and thus, higher risk of upper respiratory infection? Perhaps they would have found what other studies that included participants who were deficient in vitamin D found—a reduction in upper respiratory infections.

In fact, a study published in the same journal found that patients with tuberculosis who were deficient in vitamin D experienced a decrease in upper respiratory infections with vitamin D supplementation over two months. Certainly, more studies are needed to clear up the confusion before people write off the immune health benefits of vitamin D, which have been extensively documented. Optimizing your vitamin D level should be a priority, no matter your health status. If you haven’t had your vitamin D level tested, it’s time you did. Ask your doctor about it, or request an at-home test on your own.

Raise Your Children’s Vitamin D Levels for Winter

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/05/2012

Vitamin D is one vitamin I recommend often. Insufficient levels of vitamin D lave been linked to a wide range of chronic diseases, and most Americans have insufficient levels—two eye-opening facts that have made vitamin D the star vitamin of the last decade. From infants to the elderly, insufficient vitamin D levels are taking their toll. On the flip side, vitamin D supplementation, which is inexpensive and easy, has shown some pretty amazing health benefits that go far beyond bone health.

In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers have built upon previous studies finding an association between higher vitamin D levels and reduced risk of respiratory infections such as cold and flu. To confirm these findings, researchers studied the effects of vitamin D-fortified milk on the prevention of cold and flu in children.

Almost 250 Mongolian children were enrolled in the study, and all of them were found to have low vitamin D levels. Half of the children were given milk fortified with 300 IU vitamin D, while the other half were given unfortified milk. In the children receiving fortified milk, vitamin D levels raised to 19 ng/mL (still considered low) up from only 7 ng/mL. The risk of developing cold or flu in those children was cut in half when compared to the children receiving unfortified milk. Considering the low dosage of vitamin D in the fortified milk, I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the children received more vitamin D.

Unless you (or your children) are in the sun during peak hours of the day without sunscreen on a regular basis, you probably have insufficient levels. If you are not supplementing your children with vitamin D, please consider it. Here are recommendations from the Vitamin D Council.

Vitamin D—Are You Taking the Right Form?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/24/2012

Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for support of optimal health. Vitamin D deficiency (generally recognized as below 20 ng/mL as measured in blood), and insufficiency (generally recognized as between 20 to 30 ng/mL) have been linked to a huge range of health conditions, including osteoporosis, bone fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. Read Dr. Smith’s blog on the eye-opening prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and how to get enough of this essential vitamin.

One important detail sometimes missing from the vitamin D story is this: The form of vitamin D you take in a supplement makes a big difference in how you absorb and use vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). These forms of vitamin D are precursors to the form of vitamin D that is stored in the body—25-hydroxy-vitamin D.

A recent meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D3 is more effective at raising levels of vitamin D in the body. The researchers stated, “It is clear that, overall, there was consistency in the results that shows cholecalciferol [vitamin D3] appears to have advantageous biological qualities that allows it to sustain its systemic influence for far longer and at far greater concentrations than does ergocalciferol [vitamin D2].”

At a range of doses vitamin D3 outshined D2. Experts have been singing the praises of vitamin D3 over D2 for quite some time now and this analysis further supports that view, concluding that, “vitamin D3 could potentially become the preferred choice for supplementation.” For many it has become the preferred choice, yet vitamin D2 is still found in many vitamin supplements. This week, check the labels of your vitamin D-containing supplements. If you are not taking D3, please consider a switch.

Up With Your Vitamin D Level

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/24/2012

In 2010 the Institute of Medicine updated the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D from 400 IU to 600 IU per day for adults up to age 70, and 800 IU per day for adults 71 years and older. While this update was a (tiny) step in the right direction, many experts think it comes up far too short. The recommendations are based on the ability of 600 IU vitamin D daily to raise blood levels of vitamin D to 20 ng/mL, which the IOM thinks of as “sufficient.”

To the contrary, many health experts consider at least 50 ng/mL to be an optimal level of vitamin D, and it takes more than 600 IU daily to reach that level. A recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology brings this issue to light. “Many previous studies on vitamin D supplementation have used doses of 400 to 800 IU, which might not be adequate to ensure optimal serum [blood] levels, with more appropriate daily supplement doses suggested as 1,000 to 2,000 IU,” stated the authors of the study.

They tested vitamin D levels in the blood of over 10,000 participants, average age 58. Participants were classified as deficient if their levels were 30 ng/mL or lower. (You can already see the discrepancy between experts—IOM states levels over 20 ng/mL as sufficient.) The average vitamin D level of participants was 24 ng/mL. In other words, 70 percent were considered deficient.

The most important finding of their study, however, was that the risk of all-cause mortality (that is, the risk of death by any cause) was 164 percent higher in those people with vitamin D deficiency. Remember, that’s 70 percent of them. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with better survival, especially in patients with precious deficiency. “Our study suggests a significant association of vitamin D supplement use and improved survival in deficient subjects, supporting the potential benefit of this intervention.” Vitamin D deficiency was also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular-related conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

If you haven’t had your vitamin D level tested, ask your doctor about it. Vitamin D deficiency, or insufficiency, is associated with a wide range of chronic health conditions.