Vitamin D – How Much Do You Need?

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Dr. Joseph Mercola has made significant milestones in his mission to bring people practical solutions to their health problems. A New York Times Best Selling Author, Dr. Mercola is author of The No-Grain Diet and Take Control of Your Health. He has also been featured in TIME magazine, LA Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News with Peter Jennings, Today Show and other major media resources.

A meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials has found that supplemental vitamin D significantly reduces mortality from all causes.
The analysis emphasizes the medical, ethical, and legal implications of promptly diagnosing and adequately treating vitamin D deficiency.

Not only are such deficiencies common, but vitamin D deficiency is implicated in most of the diseases of civilization. Vitamin D’s final metabolic product targets more than 200 human genes in a wide variety of tissues. One of the most important genes vitamin D up-regulates is for cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Since vitamin D deficiency is both endemic and is associated with numerous diseases, it is one of the most important medical problems in modern society. Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in otherwise healthy patients must be individualized due to the numerous factors affecting vitamin D levels. Steps should be taken to keep patients with chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency, especially internal cancers, in the higher normal range of vitamin D blood levels.

It’s absolutely tragic that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of scaring people out of the sun – your optimal source for natural vitamin D. Dr. Cannell believes, and I agree, that this is one of the major influences that has contributed to the vitamin D epidemic we’re now facing, and also the autism increases we have seen.

Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during both work and leisure time, has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today — which in turn is fueling an astonishingly diverse array of common chronic diseases, including:

  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Autism
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes 1 and 2
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cold & Flu
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Septicemia Signs of aging Dementia
  • Eczema & Psoriasis Insomnia Hearing loss
  • Muscle pain Cavities Periodontal disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Macular degeneration Reduced C-section risk
  • Pre eclampsia Seizures Infertility
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis Migraines
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Researchers have calculated that simply increasing levels of vitamin D3 could prevent diseases that claim nearly 1 million lives throughout the world each year!

Vitamin D can decrease your risk for common respiratory infections as well. At least five studies show an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and 25(OH)D levels. That is, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections.

As more and more scientific evidence emerges, confirming that currently recommended daily allowances (RDA) of vitamin D are grossly insufficient for young and old alike, many have asked me to clarify the recommended dosages, especially as it pertains to children.

General Information about Adult Vitamin D Requirements

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that under summer conditions it is frequently possible to generate about 20,000 units of vitamin D by exposing your skin to the sun. That fact makes these recommendations seem more in line with reality.

Currently, the U.S. RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU (international units) for the majority of the population. (IU is frequently shortened to just “units.”) This dose was recommended to prevent rickets, which works well, but does nothing to give the far more important protection from cancer, heart disease and infections.

To achieve the healthy blood levels in the graph below, most adults will need about FIVE THOUSAND units of vitamin D every day. Interestingly, the majority of people I see in my travels that are taking vitamin D are taking 1,000 units, and they believe they are taking “high” doses. Don’t fool yourself, as an adult, you likely need about 5,000 IU’s a day.

Some also worry that if they are in the sun that they will overdose on vitamin D.

However this is not typically the case, and here’s why: When you’re exposed to the sun, the UVB rays cause vitamin D to be produced in your skin while the UVA rays in the sunlight will tend to destroy excessive levels of vitamin D circulating in your body. It is somewhat of a natural failsafe mechanism that prevents overdosing.

HOWEVER, please understand that about 10 percent or more of the people reading this needs significantly more than 5,000 units. I have seen people requiring over 30,000 units of vitamin D a day to reach therapeutic levels of 25 hydroxy D in their blood..

Please remember that the ONLY way to know for sure is to get your blood level tested, which I’ll go over in just a moment.

Current RDA Guidelines for Vitamin D are Outdated in Light of New Research

At the end of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents, raising it from 200 to 400 units per day.

Unfortunately this is still a woefully inadequate recommendation for children.

Recent research reveals children may need ten times that amount in order to receive the health benefits that optimal vitamin D levels have to offer.

As of right now, the conventional RDAs are only:
• 400 IU for infants, children and adolescents
• 200 IU for adults up to age 50
• 400 IU for adults aged 51 to 70
• 600 IU for seniors over 70

Recommended Daily Intake for Optimal Health

Based on the most recent research, the current recommendation is 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight.
So for a child weighing 40 pounds, the recommended average dose would be 1,400 IU’s daily, and for a 170-pound adult, the dose would be nearly 6,000 IU’s.

However, it’s important to realize that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis.

So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.

So how do you ensure optimal vitamin D levels for yourself, your child, and aging parents?

Blood Testing is the ONLY Reliable Way to Determine How Much Vitamin D You or Your Child Needs

Yes, the only way to determine the correct dose is to get your blood tested since there are so many variables that influence your vitamin D status.

I recommend using Lab Corp in the U.S. If you get it done by Quest, you’ll need to divide your result by 1.3 to get the “real” number.

For your convenience, by year’s end we hope to offer a blood test that those in the U.S. can do locally and does not require a doctor’s order.

Step 1: Make Sure You Use the Correct Test
Getting the correct test is the first step in this process, as there are TWO vitamin D tests currently being offered: 1,25(OH)D, and 25(OH)D.
The correct test your doctor needs to order is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
Step 2: Determine Your OPTIMAL Level of Vitamin D
Here again it’s important to realize the difference between what conventional medicine considers to be “normal,” versus what is optimal.
The “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab range is between 20-56 ng/ml. As you can see in the chart below, this conventional range is really a sign of deficiency, and is too broad to be ideal.

In fact, your vitamin D level should never be below 32 ng/ml, and any levels below 20 ng/ml are considered serious deficiency states, increasing your risk of as many as 16 different cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.

The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-65 ng/ml.

This range applies for everyone; children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

These ranges are based on healthy people in tropical or subtropical parts of the world, where they are receiving healthy sun exposures. It seems more than reasonable to assume that these values are in fact reflective of an optimal human requirement.
It’s worth to clarify here that ng/ml are U.S. units of measure. Much of the world uses nmol/l. If your test results are measured in nmol/l, simply multiply the above values by 2.5 to get the correct ranges.

Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit. And the way you maintain your levels within this range is by getting tested regularly – say two to four times a year in the beginning, and adjusting your vitamin D intake accordingly.
Are Oral Vitamin D Supplements Your Best Choice?
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through appropriate safe sunshine or safe tanning bed exposure. However, there are many times when it can be nearly impossible to get enough sun.

The darker your skin is, the farther away from the equator you are, and the further away you are from the summer months, the less likely it is that you will produce adequate vitamin D levels from sun exposure alone.

In these cases, supplementing with vitamin D is acceptable, but I strongly recommend you monitoring your blood levels regularly when taking oral vitamin D supplements to make sure you’re staying within the optimal range.

Only Supplement with the Right Kind of Vitamin D

There is one other thing you need to be aware of if you choose to use an oral vitamin D supplement and that is that there are basically two types – one is natural and one is synthetic.
• The natural one is D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the same vitamin D your body makes when exposed to sunshine
• The synthetic one is vitamin D2, which is sometimes called ergocalciferol

Once either form of the vitamin is in your body, it must be converted to a more active form. Vitamin D3 is converted 500 percent faster than vitamin D2, and is clearly a better alternative.
Vitamin D2 also has a shorter shelf life, and its metabolites bind with protein poorly, making it less effective. Studies have even concluded that vitamin D2 should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods (although it continues to be used). So if you choose to use vitamin D supplements make sure it is in the form of vitamin D3.

Please be aware that nearly all the prescription-based supplements contain synthetic vitamin D2, so if you receive a prescription for vitamin D from your doctor, you’re most likely receiving the inferior vitamin D2.

Getting the Word Out about the Benefits of Optimizing Vitamin D Levels

When it comes to the benefits of optimizing your vitamin D levels, the evidence is simply overwhelming. Research shows you can drastically reduce your risk of cancer and countless other chronic diseases by getting safe sun exposure, using a safe tanning bed, or taking a high-quality supplement.

Yet, a great deal of people around the world have heard nothing of this great “discovery.” It’s even likely that your doctor is among them, which is why it’s so important to educate yourself.

As a result of flawed assumptions about sun exposure, and the subsequent recommendations, a vast majority of people are deficient in vitamin D. It’s thought that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public.

Clearly, the word needs to get out but the mainstream media is slow to react. Plus, there’s no money to be made on selling vitamin D (it’s one of the most inexpensive supplements around) and sun exposure is free! So don’t count on any major corporations or drug companies to help get the message out (rather, count on them to try and suppress this lifesaving information). The longer this information goes largely unnoticed, the more people who will die unnecessarily from potentially preventable cancers and other diseases.

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