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What’s the deal with Vitamin D: do we really need to take a supplement?

In my practice, about half of my patients take some sort of daily dietary supplement. Many take a daily multivitamin and a large percentage also take a vitamin D supplement. Sometimes it’s just plain vitamin D3, sometimes Calcium + D3. Out of curiosity I like to ask people why they are taking a particular supplement (if I didn’t specifically recommend it) and I’m surprised to find that many people have no idea why they’re taking it! Well that’s what I’m here for. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of it.

So vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, which is an important chemical needed for a host of bodily functions (CLICK HERE for more info).  And the fact is, almost half of the US population is vitamin D deficient. Why? Because the main source is good ol’ sunlight (our bodies convert UVB rays to vitamin D) and most of us are indoors/ in our vehicles/vampires during the day. As someone that craves the feeling of sunlight on my skin, that makes me sad :(.

Almost every month when I read my medical journals, there is some new study regarding Vitamin D and its benefits for a particular health condition.  Here is a short list of some evidence-based benefits of vitamin D ( check out this website for links to some legit studies)

*Maintaining and improving bone health

*Optimizing cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure

*Mental Health: may help reduce depression, anxiety

*Reducing risk for some cancers: especially colon cancer

*Reducing fall risk

 

So how best to get my Vitamin D?

Sunlight is the most effective way, and you need to catch rays for at least  10 mins to get the recommended daily intake if you’re fair skinned and up to 20 mins if you’re darker. Now, for multiple reasons sunlight may not be be the safest way for some people (which is why you should double check with your doctor before increasing your sun exposure).

Another way is through certain foods; vitamin D is fat soluble and can be found in egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon/herring/sardines, cod liver oil, mushrooms, fortified dairy products). However, the overall concentration is relatively low in these foods so in most cases, I end up recommending a supplement

So what Type of Vitamin D supplement do I choose? 

There are two types: D2 and D3. D3 is the one most commonly found in supplements and has been found to increase blood levels of vitamin D more effectively than D2.

Great, now what dose do I need? 

In my experience I’ve found that at least 1,000 IU a day is needed to maintain normal levels for most people. In fact, I usually recommend 2,000 IU just to be on the safe side. I found some literature that reinforces my recommended daily dose (CLICK HERE) .  (Note: there is such a thing as TOO much Vitamin D though, so I would advise against taking more than 2,000 IU chronically based on current research).

I’m confident that as we learn more in the world of medicine and science, we will understand how crucial vitamin D is for our bodies and take its deficiency more seriously. I personally check Vitamin D levels on almost all my patients, and track the numbers periodically if they are on a supplement. I’ve seen improvement in bone density for sure, and some patients also report less musculoskeletal pain, less depression and more energy when they take their Vitamin D. Placebo effect? Who knows, but if they feel better after taking their vitamin then I’m happy!

Hope that helps to sum up Vitamin D. Let me know if there was a question you had that I didn’t explain!

Dr K