November 17, 2020 at 20:16 by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
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In peer-reviewed, published research, vitamin D has been linked to a cornucopia of health benefits, from regulating the amount of calcium in the bones to supporting the immune system.* For decades, the official dietary recommendations for vitamin D intake were based entirely on protection against bone disease. But in the last decade, it’s turned out that vitamin D has a positive impact on many things in the body besides the bones. It affects a whole cornucopia of conditions, from mood disorders to weight loss, all of which have been well-documented in multiple peer review studies. It is also critical for supporting a healthy immune system.*
This—coupled with the much-publicized fact that there is widespread vitamin D deficiency in the general population—has led to a big demand for high-quality vitamin D supplements. More people than ever are now taking them, and with good reasons! Which leads us to the question of the day: Is it possible to take too much vitamin D? The answer is, yes. But it is also highly unlikely. Let me explain.
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread
Currently, about 42% of the US population is “officially” deficient in vitamin D, meaning their levels on a blood test are under 20 ng/ml. But millions more have what is called “Vitamin Dinsufficiency”—an only slightly better situation where your levels are between 20-30 ng/ml. Neither “deficient” nor “insufficient” is a good place to be with vitamin D, even if “insufficient” is slightly better than “deficient”. For comparison, the vitamin D council recommends that people keep their blood levels between 40- 80 ng/ml. Functional medicine doctors, and vitamin D experts in general, recommend 50-80. And since these are what health experts consider optimal levels, that’s where we want to be.
Avoid "minimum wage nutrition"
Most people aren’t anywhere near “optimal” levels, even if they’re technically not deficient. Both “deficient” and “insufficient” come under the category of what I call “minimum wage nutrition”—just barely enough to prevent a disease. We don’t want a minimum wage existence and we don’t want minimum wage health either! Ideally, our blood levels should be right in the sweet spot of “optimal”, between 40 and 80 ng/ml. And that's where supplements come in. Many—if not most—of us will need vitamin D supplementation to get to that optimal level. But what happens if we take too much, and raise our blood level up to, say 100? Or even more? And how likely is that to happen?
How common is vitamin D toxicity?
A recent study8 investigated just that question. Out of more than 20,000 patients whose blood levels of vitamin D were monitored for 10 years, only 37—which is less 1/5th of 1 percent had levels over 100. And only one person—that’s one out of 20,000—had true toxicity (at 364 ng/ml!). The main effect of vitamin D toxicity is an increase in blood calcium, which can in turn cause vomiting and nausea. Treatment includes stopping vitamin D intake and restricting dietary calcium for a while.
But it’s important to note that such levels are extremely rare, and usually only seen in people who take long-term very-high-dose supplements without monitoring their blood levels. (For example, in one case study a woman had a level of 475—but she had been taking an incredible 186,900 IUs a day for two months!) It’s also worth noting that the side effects of toxicity almost always go away after you stop taking the supplements. Each 1000 IUs of vitamin D will raise your blood levels approximately 10 ng/ml. Most functional medicine docs recommend 4-5000 IUs a day for most people, knowing that “most people” are woefully low to begin with.
What’s the best way to know if I’m getting too much?
The best way—in fact, the only way—to find out if you’re getting too much vitamin D from a combination of sun and supplements is to test. Ask your healthcare professional for the simple OH(25) Vitamin D blood test, which is increasingly common, rather inexpensive, and may even be available online without a prescription in some areas. Keep in mind that no one reaches “toxic” levels quickly, even those who are ingesting ridiculous amounts of vitamin D. So keep an eye on your levels—mostly to make sure they’re high enough but also to make sure they don’t go too high—statistically unlikely as that is.
Three Big Reasons to Love Seriously Delicious® Vitamin D3
One, Barlean's Seriously Delicious® formulas are emulsified, which makes them far more absorbable. Remember, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it needs to be taken with fat to be properly absorbed and used by the body. An emulsified formula (like Seriously Delicious® Vitamin D3) takes care of that problem because it's already combined with some fat and is therefore available to the body almost immediately. What’s more, Seriously Delicious® Vitamin D3 is incredibly delicious (it tastes like a strawberry milkshake!) so, it makes taking your daily vitamin D easy, especially for kids!
Two: The Right Amount of Vitamin D
The second reason I like the new formula is the amount of D3 per serving—5,000 IUs. I’ve been taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D daily for years, and I live in Southern California where it’s almost always sunny! Five thousand IUs of D3 keeps my blood levels right in the sweet spot of “optimal,” which is right where I want them to stay.*
Three: D3 (not D2) is Where it's At
The third reason I like the Seriously Delicious® formula is that the vitamin D is in the form of D3, by far the most potent and usable form of the nutrient. Many cheaper supplements—and almost all “fortified” foods—use the decidedly inferior form of vitamin D known as vitamin D2. I never recommend D2 to anyone. It’s got to be D3 all the way, and that’s exactly what Seriously Delicious® is!