Is Vitamin D the New Vitamin E?

Is Vitamin D the New Vitamin E?
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The Institute of Medicine’s conservative position on vitamin D is understandable, given the history of hyped vitamin supplements (vitamin A, beta carotene, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E) that turned out worthless—or worse.

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It’s understandable that the Institute of Medicine chose to act conservatively when bumping up their vitamin D recommendation. An editorial in the American Journal of Epidemiology said it best. Thirty years ago, vitamin A was all the rage, expecting that if we gave beta carotene to people, it would prevent cancer. But instead, it caused even more.

Next came the Bs, and I talked about this in one of my previous videos; folic acid supplements, vitamin B9, has since been linked to cancer, as well. Next came vitamin C , which was another big flop. In 1993, it was vitamin E—until it came out that it was shortening people’s lifespans. So when people proclaim vitamin D the new wonder pill, we are right to be skeptical. Maybe vitamin D is the new vitamin A, the new folic acid, the new vitamin C, the new vitamin E—worthless, or worse.

Critics of the new recommendations, though, felt that by conservatively choosing a target blood level sufficient only to avoid gross skeletal abnormalities was akin to setting the RDA for vitamin C at just the minimum level necessary to avoid scurvy. I’m sure a spoonful of orange juice worth of vitamin C would be enough to avoid the overt vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy, but no one considers that enough vitamin C for optimum health.

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.

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It’s understandable that the Institute of Medicine chose to act conservatively when bumping up their vitamin D recommendation. An editorial in the American Journal of Epidemiology said it best. Thirty years ago, vitamin A was all the rage, expecting that if we gave beta carotene to people, it would prevent cancer. But instead, it caused even more.

Next came the Bs, and I talked about this in one of my previous videos; folic acid supplements, vitamin B9, has since been linked to cancer, as well. Next came vitamin C , which was another big flop. In 1993, it was vitamin E—until it came out that it was shortening people’s lifespans. So when people proclaim vitamin D the new wonder pill, we are right to be skeptical. Maybe vitamin D is the new vitamin A, the new folic acid, the new vitamin C, the new vitamin E—worthless, or worse.

Critics of the new recommendations, though, felt that by conservatively choosing a target blood level sufficient only to avoid gross skeletal abnormalities was akin to setting the RDA for vitamin C at just the minimum level necessary to avoid scurvy. I’m sure a spoonful of orange juice worth of vitamin C would be enough to avoid the overt vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy, but no one considers that enough vitamin C for optimum health.

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 third video in a nine-part series on vitamin D. Be sure to check out yesterday’s video: Evolutionary Argument for Optimal Vitamin D Level.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Vitamin D: Shedding some light on the new recommendationsAçai to Zucchini: antioxidant food rankingsEating To Extend Our Lifespan; and Vitamin D from Mushrooms, Sun, or Supplements?.

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

22 responses to “Is Vitamin D the New Vitamin E?

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    1. Hi Veguyan, Yes it appears that taking isolated vitamin supplements is harmful especially in the case of the fat soluble vitamins A & E. Isolated supplement of betacarotene has also been shown to be associated with bad outcomes. Supplemental taking of B vitamins has not shown to be harmful or helpful for otherwise healthy folks. Dr.Greger’s video nutritionfacts.org/videos/antioxidant-vitamin-supplements/ can provide more information. His recent videos on Vit D help shed light on the newest “craze” of supplementation. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is known to be toxic in higher doses. You can supplement Dr. Gregers excellent information by reading an article by Dr. John McDougall in his March 2011 newsletter entitled, Vitamin D: Values for Normal are Exaggerated. The supplement you need to make sure you take is Vitamin B12. See Dr.Gregers video,http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vegan-epidemic/. This can be done by weekly, daily or consuming adequate amounts of B12 supplemental food. The easiest one for me is to take a sub-lingual 2000 mcg tablet as Dr. Greger recommends. So the best way to get your vitamins, minerals and nutrients is eating a whole foods varied plant diet.

    1. Great questions–I answer them all in the 6 video conclusion of my video series on vitamin D. Click on the “Next Up” video in the upper right hand corner of this page to go to the subsequent video.

    2. If you can get in the sunshine for 20 min a day. Then otherwise that wound be enough. I have been taking 2,500 IU for serveral year.
      You can and should get a blood test for Vitiman D, then you will know for sure.

  1. The following supplements are now known to be harmful except in special situations: vitamin A (retinol), beta carotene, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), acetyl-L-carnitine (triggers TMAO), and the pro-oxidant minerals iron, copper, manganese, and aluminum.
    The following supplements are usually only slightly beneficial: vitamin C (increases blood glutathione by 50% but increases heme iron absorption), calcium (causes calcified arteries), selenium (very beneficial antioxidant in theory but little or no benefit in practice), vitamin K1 (no benefit to bone health as had been hoped but surprisingly prevents cancer), astaxanthin (most powerful carotenoid antioxidant performed not quite as wonderful as expected), and fucoxanthin (works well in animals but may not work in humans)
    The following supplements have been shown to be extremely beneficial: vitamin B12 (even meat eaters should swallow vitamin B12 pills to prevent brain shrinkage), vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 (aim for 24ng/mL to 34ng/mL, which is the same as 60nmol/L to 85 nmol/L), vitamin K2/MK-7 (removes calcium from calcified arteries and puts calcium into bones to effectively prevent future bone fractures), tocotrienols (powerful fat-soluble antioxidants), vitamin PQQ, nattokinase (melts away blood clots), long-chain omega-3s (from krill oil, fish oil, or algae), conjugated linoleic acid, forskolin, astragalus, Korean red ginseng, psyllium husk, amalaki, triphala, zinc, benfotiamine, alpha-lipoic acid, and probiotics (lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and bacillus subtilis natto).

  2. First of all, several studies showing harm from taking vitamins use synthetic (isolated out from a spectrum) or a form of the vitamin that is not even found in food! Why is this not talked about??? We cant just assume folic acid is harmful just because a form that is not even found in food, has studies showing it is carcinogenic. This is beyond stupid if you ask me and shows a lack of IQ.

  3. You need to supplement with vitamin D if you’re not getting adequate sun, but you can do so by taking whole foods supplements. I take a supplement in the winter made 100% from organic mushrooms, so basically to say that THAT particular whole foods supplement would be bad, would be like saying that eating a bunch of organic mushrooms would be bad. Supplementing with concentrations of 100% whole plant foods is very different than unnatural supplements meant to replace foods. Some people can’t afford to eat all the foods they need to get optimal nutrition. I think it’s important to look at the difference between natural whole foods supplements and artificial supplements instead of scaring people out of taking something they may need, like vitamins D during winter months in an area where people are deficient that time of year. I don’t like videos like these because they don’t address the differences. But I don’t think there’s studies done on natural, whole foods supplements. Regardless, common sense says if it’s a bunch of concentrated fruit and veggies making up said supplement, then it’s food… just in concentrated form.

      1. Great question Rebecca! I am a volunteer moderator that helps Dr. Greger and hopefully can provide you with some additional information. D2 is the version of vitamin D known as ergocalciferol. It is less stable and more toxin when taken in larger doses than D3, or cholecalciferol. Both of these are synthetic versions of the vitamin, not a whole food source (unless it states it on the bottle). Always read the labels of the supplement.

  4. I would rather consume Vitamin D in whole food form. I noticed my supplement D3 spray contains lichen, but it doesn’t say which species. I couldn’t find any nutritional info for specific lichen species online, either. Native Americans in my region consumed Usnea spp and others — up to 25 lbs/year! Could this have been their source of D, particularly in the winter? I’d like to know which lichen species to harvest, how much would be a serving size of D3, and how to prepare the lichen (soaking/rinsing, cooking, etc.). Any information in the scientific literature that you can find?

    1. Rebecca, The amounts available from food sources are far less than that necessary to raise the average low levels, we find clinically. I would suggest that you consider another brand if you’re questioning the excipients. There is a long and well done observational study by Life Extension foundation regarding their lab and supplement findings that clearly make a few points. One is that many people run a low level of vitamin D and that taking it with a fatty meal is absolutely necessary for absorption. Dr. Alan Kadish NF moderator

      1. O.K., thanks, Alan. I just hope that someday Vitamin D supplements won’t be the new Vitamin E, or we’ll have to figure out a more natural way of obtaining it.

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