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Last updated April 7, 2017, December 3, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Nowadays, most people are aware that Vitamin D deficiency is a serious
health problem. The latest numbers from the Centers of Disease Control
highlight the problem --- only about 25% of us get enough Vitamin D
to support our optimal health, according to a 2009 population study
from University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Given that
most of us have low Vitamin D status, what can we do to correct the
probe? How much Vitamin D should be taking to bring our levels up to
optimal? Will getting more sun remedy the problem?
Symptoms of Low Vitamin D Status
Being Vitamin D insufficient can make you feel generally tired and
listless, even when you are just waking up from a full night’s sleep.
Having low Vitamin D levels also increases your risk for a long list of
diseases and health-threatening conditions including high blood
pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer. In men, low Vitamin D
status has been linked to poor recovery rates from prostate cancer and
even to erectile dysfunction.
In fact, the more scientists study the effects of low Vitamin D status on
your body, the more it becomes apparent that Vitamin D is more
essential than anyone ever imagined.
For example, having low levels of Vitamin D and Type 2 diabetes
increases your risk for blocked carotid arteries, according to a 2015
study from Department of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Cairo
Moreover, having low Vitamin D status affects the functioning of your
brain. In 2015, doctors from King George's Medical University in India
discovered that Vitamin D supplementation causes significant
improvement in the cognitive performance in subjects with senile
In fact, research studies from around the world have found Vitamin D
deficiency plays at least some role in causing 17 different cancers as
well as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune
diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease, according to a 2005
study from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration.
Will Getting More Sun Help?
The very best and most natural way to maintain healthy levels of
Vitamin D is to spend enough time out in the sun.
Your body converts sunlight exposure to Vitamin D very efficiently if
you live near the equator, are fair-skinned and spend enough time in
In the best case, The Vitamin D Council of the US estimates that it takes
15 minutes of direct sun exposure for a fair skinned person living in a
sunny place such as Florida, southern California, the Caribbean,
Australia or South Africa to produce 10,000 to 25,000 IUs of Vitamin D
throughout the year.
For those who live farther north -- say New York, Canada or most of
Europe above the Mediterranean countries -- you will only be able to
produce enough Vitamin D during the hot months of the year. For the
rest of the year, you should consider Vitamin D supplements. In these
locations, the angle of the sun is simply too low for too many days
during the month to generate enough Vitamin D even in fair-skinned
people. Darker skinned people have even less chance of generating the
needed Vitamin D.
In fact, an overlooked danger of immigration is the change in Vitamin D
status. In Canada, doctors became alarmed when they found that
almost all of the dark-skinned immigrants who came to Canada from
sunnier countries were severely deficient in Vitamin D. "This is a really
great example of how … immigration to Canada could be dangerous or
bad for your health," according to Dr. Kevin Pottie of at the University
of Ottawa. Dr. Potties found that almost 100% of his immigrant and
refugee patients have inadequate Vitamin D status.
Just How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
It is important to separate minimal needs from optimal health. At a
minimum, your body requires Vitamin D in combination with calcium to
prevent your bones from becoming soft, thin and brittle( rickets or
osteomalacia). Your muscles and nerves also need Vitamin D to
If you are confused about how much Vitamin D you need to take, you
are not alone. There is some question in the scientific community as to
just how much Vitamin D you need each day. The Vitamin D Council
recommends 2000 IUs per day for adults. The National Institutes of
Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements cautions that the amount of
Vitamin D you need varies with your age. Adults under 70 need 600
IU per day, adults over 70 need 800.
But if you are already deficient in Vitamin D --and most of us in the US
are --- then the daily amounts recommended are not enough to bring
your levels up to optimal, according to a 1999 report from the Food
and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.
Also, you should be aware of the type of Vitamin D you purchase.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is more easily absorbed by the body than
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), according to a 2007 study from Boston
University Medical Center, but the type of Vitamin D most often
prescribed is Vitamin D2.
Vitamin D is well-tolerated, however. Levels up to 10,000 IU per day
can be consumed without being toxic, a 1999 study from the University
of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital found.
How Well Do the Most Popular Vitamin D Regimes Work?
In 2009, a large study was completed which reviewed all other existing
studies on the amount of Vitamin D you need to correct a Vitamin D
insufficiency. This 2009 study, led by Dr. Kara Pepper of Emory
University School of Medicine, concluded that doctors most often
prescribed 3 Vitamin D regimes:
-50,000 IU of Vitamin D2 once weekly for 4 weeks followed by 50,000
IU once monthly for 5 months. This achieved healthy levels of Vitamin D
in 38% of the patients.
- 50,000 IU of Vitamin D2 once monthly for 6 months (n = 80); This
regime achieved healthy levels of Vitamin D in 42% of the cases.
- 50,000 IU of Vitamin D2 3 times weekly for 6 weeks. This regime
achieved healthy levels in 82% of the cases.
Overall, you would need to consume a total of over 600,000 IUs of
Vitamin D2 for an average of between 20 and 60 days to bring your
levels of Vitamin D up to sufficiency once you have slipped into Vitamin
D insufficiency. These levels spread out over the 20 to 60 days did not
The bottom line is this: Try not to slip into Vitamin D insufficiency. It is
a deep hole to climb out of. If you have been tested and found to be
Vitamin D insufficient, follow your doctor’s prescribed regime to the
letter. Do not shortcut the regime once you start to feel better.
During the sunny months, get sun. Vitamin D is “banked” by your body,
so soaking up some rays will help you through the dark days of winter.
During those dark days, make sure you are taking a Vitamin D
supplement to bring you up to the recommended minimum of 600 to
800 IU per day.
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|You need at least 15 minutes of direct
sun a day to generate enough Vitamin