Vitamin D: The Healthy Aging Dose
Confused by all the back and forth in the media about vitamin D?
Dont be. Theres actually a pretty easy and straightforward approach that most older adults can take.
In this post, Ill explain what I recommend to most of my older patients, and why.
Ill also address the following frequently asked questions:
- Which type of Vitamin D should I take?
- Do I need to have my vitamin D blood level checked?
- What should ones vitamin D level be?
- Will vitamin D really prevent falls or fractures?
- Will vitamin D prevent dementia, cancer, and/or premature death?
- I am outside a lot. Do I need a vitamin D supplement?
- I heard that a higher level of vitamin D is better for you. How much is too much?
By the way, I maintain this post in part because a few years back, I was disappointed by the recent NY Times article Why Are So Many People Popping Vitamin D?
Among other things, that article should have had a different headline. The key problem the article described is that there are too many people being tested for vitamin D. The article did not make the case that too many people are taking vitamin D supplements.
In fact, vitamin D supplementation remains recommended by experts. And as Ill explain below, there are good reasons to believe that vitamin D supplementation is especially useful for older adults.
Now, I do agree with the article in that many people seem to have unrealistic expectations of what vitamin D can do for them.
Can Vitamin D3 Cause Hair Loss
There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be a contributing factor to hair loss. One study found that women with hair loss had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than women without hair loss.
While more research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can help with hair loss, it may be worth taking a supplement if you’re deficient in this nutrient. Aim for 600 IU of vitamin D per day. You can also get your vitamin D levels checked by a doctor to see if you need to supplement.
If you’re concerned about hair loss, be sure to talk to your doctor. While vitamin D deficiency may be a factor in hair loss, there are many other potential causes. Only a medical professional can diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend treatment options.
How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health
Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN Jared Meacham, Ph.D., RD, PMP, MBA, CSCS
Vitamin D is essential for good health.
Its often referred to as the sunshine vitamin and is made in your skin when exposed to sunlight.
Despite that, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.
Up to 42% of the American adult population has low vitamin D levels, which can cause health problems (
Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and immune system function.
This article discusses how much vitamin D you need.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin thats involved in many essential body functions.
There are two forms of vitamin D in the diet and supplements:
- Vitamin D2 : found in some mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3 : found in oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks.
D3 is the more powerful of the two types and raises vitamin D levels almost twice as much as D2 .
Significant amounts of vitamin D can also be made in your skin when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Any excess vitamin D is stored in your body fat for later use.
Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. Its essential to many processes, including bone health, immune system function, and can help protect against cancer (
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How To Prevent And Treat Vitamin D Deficiency
Many patients and physicians think that adequate vitamin D intake can be obtained via diet alone. This assumption is erroneous. With the exception of fatty fish, the vitamin D content of most foods, including fortified dairy products, is relatively low to nonexistent. Even some dairy products in the United States are not fortified, making it important to read food labels to ensure the vitamin D content of foods.
What Does Vitamin D3 Do For Skin
Often called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays an integral role in skin protection and rejuvenation. In its active form as calcitriol, vitamin D contributes to skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism. It enhances the skins immune system and helps to destroy free radicals that can cause premature ageing.
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How Much Vitamin D Is Too Much
Because vitamin D is fat soluble, there have been repeated warnings against overdosing. In 2002, the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Commission released its position the safety of vitamin D.
The report stated that a daily intake of 2,000 IU for adolescents, adults, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, and 1,000 IU for children may be taken for extended periods during the first 10 years of life with no risk of side effects and without medical supervision.
Most experts consider a daily intake of up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D to be safe for adults.
Since direct sunlight produces 10,000 IU of vitamin D in the human body, this may be the physiological upper limit.
Since vitamin D is potentially toxic, the state-approved limit is 50 mcg . However, this is a conservative limit and is likely 5 times too low.
Known cases of vitamin D toxicity with hypercalcemia in which the 25D concentration and vitamin D dose are known all point to an intake of 40,000 IU a day or more.
Excessive intake of vitamin D can only occur by taking dietary supplements. But one would have to take some 40,000 IU per day for several months to cause vitamin D overdose.
One-time massive-dose therapy involving high doses do not result in an overdose of vitamin D, even at doses in excess of 100,000 IU.
The symptoms of vitamin D intoxication include nausea, high calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, irregular heartbeat and kidney stones.
Vitamin D Recommendations For Teens May Be Too Low
3 Min Read
NEW YORK Adolescents can safely take, and may need, vitamin D doses that are up to 10 times what is generally recommended, a small study suggests.
In a trial that followed 340, 10- to 17-year-olds for one year, Lebanese researchers found that vitamin D doses equivalent to 2,000 IU per day were not only safe, but also achieved more-desirable blood levels of the vitamin.
The dose used in the study was 10 times the official adequate intake level set for vitamin D in the United States 200 IU per day for children and adults younger than 50.
An adequate intake, or AI, is set when health officials believe there is insufficient evidence to lay down a recommended dietary allowance, or RDA.
But some researchers have argued that the 200 IU standard is too low. This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that children and teenagers get 400 IU of vitamin D each day.
In the current study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers looked at whether adolescents can take doses equivalent to 2,000 IU per day without risking side effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation and weight loss.
Dr. Ghada El-Hajj Fuleihan and colleagues at the American University of Beirut first conducted an 8-week safety study in which 25 adolescents were given either a weekly dose of 14,000 IU of vitamin D3 also known as cholecalciferol or a placebo.
They found that the high vitamin dose caused no toxic effects.
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The Latest Research On Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements have long been touted as important to bone health. The problem is that several studies have found that they dont live up to the hype. Vitamin D supplementation doesnt prevent fractures or falls, or have any effect on bone mineral density that is clinically meaningful, according to large review of over 81 clinical trials published in October 2018 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 30265-1″ rel=”nofollow”> 4)
Nor was vitamin D supplementation found to reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death in a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving over 25,000 participants that was published in January 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Yet researchers found that those who developed cancer had a 25 percent lower death rate when they were taking vitamin D. The findings also included a possible reduction in cancer risk for African Americans, which researchers wrote warrants further study.
Meanwhile, though observational studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a randomized, controlled clinical trial published in June 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine did not support that conclusion. Vitamin D3 supplementation at a dose of 4,000 IU per day did not result in a significantly lower risk of diabetes compared with a placebo.
Still, before you dispose of your supplements, speak with your doctor.
Vitamin D Benefits And Warnings
Although the research is still hazy, some people will benefit from taking vitamin D supplements, along with sufficient calcium intake, to promote their bone health. But they don’t require large amounts of vitamin D to get the benefit. “More is not necessarily better. In fact, more can be worse,” says Dr. Manson. For example, a 2010 study published in JAMA showed that intake of very high doses of vitamin D in older women was associated with more falls and fractures.
In addition, taking a supplement that contains too much vitamin D can be toxic in rare cases. It can lead to hypercalcemia, a condition in which too much calcium builds up in the blood, potentially forming deposits in the arteries or soft tissues. It may also predispose people to painful kidney stones.
If you’re taking vitamin D supplements, the take-home message is moderation. Taking too much can limit the benefits of the sunshine vitamin.
Selected food sources of vitamin D
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Can Vitamin D Regrow Hair
Vitamin D affects the health of many parts of the body, including the skin and hair. Vitamin D plays a role in the creation of new hair follicles. Hair follicles are the tiny pores from which new hairs grow. Because of this link, getting adequate amounts of vitamin D can support hair growth and regrowth.
Vitamin D And Sunlight
Fair-skinned people are recommended to go outside without sunscreen, for 15-20 minutes per day, in spring and summer, to avoid vitamin D deficiency all year. In the winter there is very little UVB, and most vitamin D will be coming from the diet.
For dark-skinned people, sun exposure should be 20-40 minutes per day, but this will be beneficial in the summer only.
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Good Sources Of Vitamin D
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.
But between October and early March we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight. Read more about vitamin D and sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods.
- fortified foods such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it is not fortified, as it is in some other countries.
How Is Vitamin D3 Measured
Now you know the Vitamin D3 daily requirements and dosages, the next big question were asked is how is Vitamin D3 measured. We have talked about IU and µg but what exactly do these stand for and more importantly what do they mean.
Vitamin D3 supplements have different strengths of Vitamin D3 and the µg stands for micrograms. Micrograms are used to measure the biological activity of vitamins and are based on the same measure as International Units but are not equivalent. So, 1 IU is the biological equivalent of 0.025 µg cholecalciferol. The current Nutrient Reference Value of Vitamin D3 is 200 IU .
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What Are Good Sources Of Vitamin D
You can get your vitamin D daily dosage from three main sources: the sun, food, and supplements. While you can spend 10-15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen every day to increase your vitamin D intake, you might be worried about damaging UV rays. Thats why its important to ensure your diet includes plenty of vitamin D-rich foods. Good sources include fatty fish, cod liver oils, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and mushrooms, as well as vitamin D-fortified foods . Finally, taking a vitamin D supplement can fill in any nutritional gaps.
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The Bottom Line
Vitamin D is important for maintaining bone health, muscle functioning, and immunity. But with up to 40% of U.S. adults having a vitamin D deficiency, you might be wondering, How much vitamin D should I take? The daily dosage depends on a variety of factors , but in general, its recommended that most adults take 15mcg or 600 IU of vitamin D per day.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information.
Can We Get Enough Vitamin D From The Sun Alone
Although exposure to the sun is the most effective way to acquire adequate vitamin D, it comes with a cost. Furthermore, the quantity of sunlight required varies.
Individuals with darker skin, in particular those over the age of 60, produce less vitamin D in their skin.
Seasonality and geography are also important since vitamin D production varies with distance from the equator.
Vitamin D can also be formed in the skin through modest amounts of sun exposure, and it’s best to limit your time outdoors to 10 to 15 minutes, exposing your arms, legs, stomach, and back.
The Skin Cancer Organization says that you should only apply this product two to three times each week, followed by sunscreen. After then, your body will eliminate any extra vitamin D and you’ll be exposing yourself to sun damage with no added protection.
Keep in mind that the same thing that helps your body create vitamin D can also cause DNA damage, sunburn, and genetic mutations. This might lead to wrinkles appearing and raise your risk of skin cancer.
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How Much Vitamin D Can You Safely Take Daily
Some people may need a higher dose, however, including those with a bone health disorder and those with a condition that interferes with the absorption of vitamin D or calcium, says Dr. Manson. Unless your doctor recommends it, avoid taking more than 4,000 IU per day, which is considered the safe upper limit.
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How Much Vitamin D Should I Take
A high percentage of adults, somewhere between 50 percent and upward of 90 percent depending on ethnicity and location, are believed to be at least somewhat deficient in vitamin D. It makes sense then that vitamin D is now one of the most widely consumed supplements, though you may wonder how much vitamin D should I take. Its a tricky question, but its important to get enough of this essential vitamin.
Deficiency in vitamin D is a real problem considering that this nutrient has been shown to promote health by helping with absorption of minerals like calcium, aiding in bone health, boosting immune function, supporting growth and development, and much more. If you spend little time outdoors in the sun, have dark skin, are over the age of 70 or live in northern regions of the world where theres less sunshine year-round, then youre more likely to experience vitamin D deficiency symptoms.
When it comes to reaping the many benefits of vitamin D, you may be wondering how much vitamin D should I take? The optimal amount of vitamin D to take in supplement form depends on a number of factors for example, if youre already deficient in vitamin D, your diet, age, health status, where you live and so on. As you can see, answering the question of how much vitamin D I should take isnt necessarily cut and dry.
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What To Know About Vitamin D Toxicity Or Overdosing On Vitamin D
When it comes to vitamin D, more isnt always better. Since the vitamin is fat soluble, its stored inside the body and can be harmful if your levels get too high. Too much vitamin D can cause vitamin D toxicity, or hypervitaminosis D, Clifford says.
You dont have to worry about overdosing if you rely on your diet and sunlight to reach 600 IU a day. Its once supplements get added that it becomes a concern. Its more common with mega doses of supplements taken over a long period of time usually doses above 10,000 IU per day, Clifford says.