The Difficulty of Arriving at a Vitamin D Recommendation

The Difficulty of Arriving at a Vitamin D Recommendation
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People respond differently to the same level of vitamin D supplementation, making it difficult to formulate one-size-fits-all guidelines.

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Figuring our what level of vitamin D supplementation is necessary to bring one’s level up to a specific blood level, like 30 nanograms per milliliter—the level associated with the longest lifespan—is not as easy as one might think. For example, here are seven people starting out with blood levels under the target of 30. They all got the exact same dose of vitamin D—1,600 IUs a day—and here’s what happened to their levels over the next six months.

One person’s blood levels tripled. Another even quadrupled. But in these three, even though they were all on the same dose, their blood levels hardly moved at all, and stayed under 30.

So, let’s say you’re trying to come up with a recommendation for people. Here’s a scatter plot of about 3,000 people. Blood level versus intake. So, people taking 10,000 IU a day average about a blood level of about 75, with 95% of people falling in between about 40 and 110.

If we want to choose a dose for which 95% of people reach the target of 30, we’d probably choose around 6,000 IU a day. But though that would get the most to the minimum, the average level would be over 50—which is higher than we’d like to see on the U-shaped vitamin D total mortality graph.

That’s equivalent to like 125 nanomoles per liter, which is off to the right of the graph. You can see why forming dietary recommendations is a formidable, and unenviable, task.

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.

Image thanks to plant nutrition / Flickr

Figuring our what level of vitamin D supplementation is necessary to bring one’s level up to a specific blood level, like 30 nanograms per milliliter—the level associated with the longest lifespan—is not as easy as one might think. For example, here are seven people starting out with blood levels under the target of 30. They all got the exact same dose of vitamin D—1,600 IUs a day—and here’s what happened to their levels over the next six months.

One person’s blood levels tripled. Another even quadrupled. But in these three, even though they were all on the same dose, their blood levels hardly moved at all, and stayed under 30.

So, let’s say you’re trying to come up with a recommendation for people. Here’s a scatter plot of about 3,000 people. Blood level versus intake. So, people taking 10,000 IU a day average about a blood level of about 75, with 95% of people falling in between about 40 and 110.

If we want to choose a dose for which 95% of people reach the target of 30, we’d probably choose around 6,000 IU a day. But though that would get the most to the minimum, the average level would be over 50—which is higher than we’d like to see on the U-shaped vitamin D total mortality graph.

That’s equivalent to like 125 nanomoles per liter, which is off to the right of the graph. You can see why forming dietary recommendations is a formidable, and unenviable, task.

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.

Image thanks to plant nutrition / Flickr

Doctor's Note

This is the sixth video in a nine-part series on vitamin D. Be sure to check out yesterday’s video: Vitamin D Supplements May Be Necessary.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Vitamin D: Shedding Some Light on the New RecommendationsEating 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.

8 responses to “The Difficulty of Arriving at a Vitamin D Recommendation

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    1. Dr. Greger, have you considered the possibility that humans should only be taking in vitamin D from the interaction of the sunshine on our skin, that all forms of vitamin D that we pass through our mouth (both supplements and food sources) somehow might be disrupting some sort of internal homeostasis as far as vitamin D receptors, hormones, autoimmune regulation. Something seems amiss to me, the popping of pills and food and expecting the same exact reactions internally as that of the relationship of the sun’s rays and our skin. Are humans possibly playing god by popping pills? And is there a limitation and or consequence to this that might possibly be unknown to us?

  1. I had 18.9 ng /ml (30.0-100.0 ng/mL)
    So I used liquid vitamin D (vitamin D-cure) , 12 drops a day. And my levels were last time around 32

  2. I have a question: what can be done for females to lower androgen hormones (androstenedione) ? I dont eat much fat, basically eat like you say in all the videos, been vegan (sometimes eat eggs from my chickens) for 10 years. I’ve been tested for PCOS and don’t have that. Im 26 now. are there any supplements that might help lower androgens in females?

  3. What I mean is that I have been consuming the vitamin D 5,000 IU
    supplement, and instead of increasing, the vitamin D in my organism has been
    decreasing. For instance I had 26 ng/ml, and after consuming the supplement it
    went to 52 ng/ml (it increased), so I continued taking the supplement, but then
    it lower to 35 ng/ml. So i was wondering, why did this happen.

  4. Hello Dr. Greger, I was wondering if vitamin K2 MK-7 needs to be taken along with vitamin D3? D3 transports calcium to blood; while MK-7 takes it from blood and accompanies Ca2++ to our bones. Thank you in advance.

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