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Vitamin D

Compelling Research Supports Increased Vitamin D Intake

A review article in the July 19, 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine makes a compelling argument for Americans to supplement with more vitamin D.1

The authors point out that between 40% and 100% of elderly people in the United States and Europe have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D. They also highlight disturbing findings that even children and young adults who supplement with 400 IU/day of vitamin D and consume vitamin D-containing foods often suffer from a vitamin D insufficiency.

When addressing critics who argue that studies using 400 IU of vitamin D do not show much benefit, the authors provide meticulous data showing that far higher doses of vitamin D are needed and that it is the amount of vitamin D in one’s blood that determines disease risk reduction rather than how much is actually swallowed.

The authors have calculated the rates of various diseases affected by vitamin D status and have come up with the following startling numbers:

  • 78% reduction in Type 1 diabetes in children taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D in the first year of life

  • 200% increase in Type I diabetes in vitamin D-deficient children

  • 33% reduction in Type II diabetes in those taking 800 IU/day of vitamin D plus calcium

  • 72% reduction in number of falls in elderly people taking higher-dose vitamin D

  • 30-50% more cancers in vitamin D-deficient people

  • 42% reduction in multiple sclerosis in women taking more than 400 IU/day of vitamin D.1

The New England Journal of Medicine authors then document increased incidences of autoimmune diseases, osteoarthritis, depression, hypertension, pulmonary disorders, schizophrenia, and cardiovascular diseases in those with less than optimal vitamin D status.

Furthermore, the authors of an editorial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have been sharply critical of the media and the government for failing to urge Americans to consume more vitamin D.2 This editorial, titled “The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective,” goes on to state:

  • Human diets do not provide sufficient vitamin D.

  • Minimum vitamin D blood levels needed to reduce disease risk are 30 ng/mL.

The writers pose the question: “If a concentration of 75 nmol/L [30 ng/mL] is the goal to be achieved by consumption of vitamin D, then why is it so rare for members of the population to accomplish this?”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial lashes out at the media for misleading the public about the amount of vitamin D they need to supplement with. As the authors point out, government-based recommendations of 200 IU/day for children, 400 IU/day for those aged 51-70 years, and 600 IU/day for those over 70 are horribly outdated. Yet fears of liability cause the media to continue regurgitating antiquated government vitamin D potencies that were long ago shown to be inadequate. The following quote is from the conclusion of this editorial:

“Because of convincing evidence of benefit and the strong evidence of safety, we urge those who have the ability to support public health—the media, vitamin manufacturers, and policy makers—to undertake new initiatives that will have a realistic chance of making a difference in terms of vitamin D nutrition.”2


1. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 19;357(3):266-81.

2. Vieth R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Boucher BJ, et al. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):649-50.

Reprinted with exclusive permission of Life Extension.