How the Institute of Medicine Arrived at their Vitamin D Recommendation

How the Institute of Medicine Arrived at their Vitamin D Recommendation
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The latest revision of the official vitamin D recommendations was based on the body’s reaction to protect bone health—but what about the other three dozen affected organs?

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There are many ways to arrive at a target vitamin level. We’ve already examined some of the problems inherent to just using deficiency disease prevention and evolutionary arguments to establish an optimum intake.

If a vitamin only does one thing, then it’s easy; you set the level at whatever the body needs to do that one thing best. But what if the vitamin affects dozens of different organs, like with vitamin D? Then, it’s more difficult.

Here’s a list of the target tissues affected by vitamin D in the body. In revising their recommendations, the Institute of Medicine decided to only look at one tissue—bone, which many considered to be a mistake. 

I did like how they went about it, though. I mean, they asked the expert: the human body. When our body senses we don’t have enough active vitamin D for adequate bone health, it releases a hormone, called PTH, to boost our levels. And so, the Institute of Medicine figured, why don’t we just listen in on the body’s own innate wisdom, and find out which level of vitamin D it feels comfortable with for bone health? And that number is about 20 nanograms/ml, here as 50 nanomoles per liter. Once we fall below that, our body is like uh, oh, and starts producing this PTH to protect our bones from softening. But that’s just the bone; what about the other three dozen organs affected by vitamin D?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

There are many ways to arrive at a target vitamin level. We’ve already examined some of the problems inherent to just using deficiency disease prevention and evolutionary arguments to establish an optimum intake.

If a vitamin only does one thing, then it’s easy; you set the level at whatever the body needs to do that one thing best. But what if the vitamin affects dozens of different organs, like with vitamin D? Then, it’s more difficult.

Here’s a list of the target tissues affected by vitamin D in the body. In revising their recommendations, the Institute of Medicine decided to only look at one tissue—bone, which many considered to be a mistake. 

I did like how they went about it, though. I mean, they asked the expert: the human body. When our body senses we don’t have enough active vitamin D for adequate bone health, it releases a hormone, called PTH, to boost our levels. And so, the Institute of Medicine figured, why don’t we just listen in on the body’s own innate wisdom, and find out which level of vitamin D it feels comfortable with for bone health? And that number is about 20 nanograms/ml, here as 50 nanomoles per liter. Once we fall below that, our body is like uh, oh, and starts producing this PTH to protect our bones from softening. But that’s just the bone; what about the other three dozen organs affected by vitamin D?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

This is the seventh video in a nine-part series on vitamin D. Be sure to check out yesterday’s video: The Difficulty of Arriving at a Vitamin D Recommendation.

For additional context, check out my associated blog posts: Vitamin D: Shedding Some Light on the New Recommendations, and Vitamin D from Mushrooms, Sun, or Supplements?.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

12 responses to “How the Institute of Medicine Arrived at their Vitamin D Recommendation

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  1. In the list of tissues involved with vitamin D, there’s something called the eggshell gland. What’s that? Do humans have this eggshell gland or is it found in birds only?

    1. Good eye! That’s just in birds and some fish and reptiles (though presumably in platypuses as well?). It’s part of their oviducts that forms the eggshells.

  2. The effects of Vit D deficiency are many as you can see from the list on the right side of this video’s diagram. It is always difficult to say which effects occur in an individual. However a level of 5 ng/ml would be considered deficient by any recommendations. For further discussion see: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vitamin-d-recommendations-changed/. The best way to keep our vitamin D levels at the appropriate level is to get adequate sunlight see: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vitamin-supplements-worth-taking/. For individuals with very low levels as you mention I would recommend working with a physician to get recommendations and appropriate followup.

  3. Can ;post-menopausal women take vitamin D supplements? I read somewhere that Vitamin D was not recommended for that supplementation. I would like to know the correct answer. Thank You!

  4. Hello, it is possible, when many year not in the sun,and you have only 9 from 40 or 50 nmmol you geht trouble mit Parahytroid? I have hyperparathyroidism with 1 cm ademom? Can I lose the ademom, when eating vegan with much vegetable?

    There are studies hyperparathyroidism relating and nutrition? Thanks

  5. Feel free to jump to the question below. I searched the site and haven’t found anything on hyperparathyrodism. There are so many stories out there that are “Pro-vitamin D” however if one has hyperparathyroidism, vitamin d can make you very ill. This happens to me. I had all the symptoms of hypercalicemia. My vitamin D level at this time was 30. Once I stopped taking vitamin d, all my symptoms went away. Since then, my D plunged back to 15 and yet I still have a tan from the summer. I finally had one high parathyroid test even though my calcium is normal. I’m 41, and patients my age ususally do not have hyperparathyroidism but my experience with vitamin d and becoming ill made me aware that something was not right in my body.

    My Question:
    What I am wondering about is that I’ve read that there is a correlation between severe obesity and parathyroid tumor growth, that is, the more obese, the larger the growth. So my question is, if one is “severely obese” based on BMI, then would it be possible or plausible if one were to lose weight and reach a healthy BMI, that one could reverse tumor growth and heal one’s self? Like in the case of some other systemic diseases like diabetes, if one removes the causation of the condition? Or once a tumor is there, can it only be removed via surgery? Also, is there any other research that points to the cause of hyperparathyroidism? Is it also a disease of the western diet like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke?

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