Vitamin D: What you should know.

I am sure many of you have noticed a fairly significant uptick in the amount of coverage in the media that Vitamin D has gotten lately. There have been a few reports that seem rather contradictory and others that may be confusing.Some of the confusion is due to the fact that some research is advocating higher daily levels of Vitamin D supplementation (around 5000 IU) and other recent research was referring to the current levels of recommended levels (200-400 IU which we are finding are much too low). So lets talk about Vitamin D a little and how it relates to all of us from a health and longevity standpoint.

Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin but behaves more like a steroid hormone that targets over 2000 of the genes (roughly 10%) in our body.Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease,asthma, susceptibility to cold and flu viruses and more.

Here are 12 critically important ways vitamin D can help protect your health( ):

1. Colon cancer. A study by cancer prevention specialists at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California found that high amounts of vitamin D could slash colorectal cancer rates by two-thirds. A European study found that high levels of vitamin D cut the odds of colon cancer by almost 40 percent.

2. Breast cancer. Research using data from two earlier studies found that women with the highest amounts of vitamin D in their blood lowered their risk of breast cancer by 50 percent when compared to women with the lowest levels. A Canadian study found that women who took a vitamin D pill of least 400 international units every day lowered their risk of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.

3. Heart disease. A British study has found that middle-aged and elderly people with high levels of vitamin D reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 33 percent. Utah scientists found that patients who raised their blood levels of vitamin D after being diagnosed as deficient lowered their risk of having a heart attack by 33 percent, their risk of heart failure by 20 percent, and their risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent.

4. Brain health. A European study of men between the ages of 40 and 79 found that high levels of vitamin D were associated with high scores on memory tests.

5. Diabetes. Researchers at Warwick Medical School found that adults with the highest blood levels of vitamin D lowered their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 55 percent.

6. Asthma. Asthmatics who have high levels of vitamin D have better lung function and respond to treatment better than those who have low levels, according to researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver.

7. Bone health. Vitamin D and calcium reduce the risk of hip fractures in the elderly. Studies show that people who are deficient in vitamin D absorb 65 percent less calcium than those with normal levels. One recent study from the United Kingdom found that 95 percent of patients with hip fractures were deficient in vitamin D, and having adequate levels could reduce hip fractures by up to 50 percent.

8. Depression. University of Toronto researchers found that people who suffer from depression, especially those with seasonal affective disorder, improved as the levels of vitamin D in the blood rose. Researchers in Norway found that high doses of vitamin D helped relieve the symptoms of depression.

9. Multiple sclerosis. Australian scientists discovered that people who live in the state furthest from the equator — and get less sunlight — are seven times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than those who live in the sunniest state.

10. Colds and flu. Scientists at the University of Colorado found that people with the lowest amounts of vitamin D in their blood had the highest incidence of colds and flu. Researchers have found that it supports the immune system by producing over 200 microbes in the body that assist in fighting and destroying cold and flu viruses. The common thinking was that cold and flu season is in the fall and winter because we are forced to be indoors more in close contact with each other. Now the thinking is more along the lines that because of the lack of sun exposure in these times of the year, our Vitamin D levels drop and we become more vulnerable to and less able to fight off these viruses.

11. Rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, found that women with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood lowered their chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 30 percent.

12. Crohn’s Disease. Vitamin D switches on genes responsible for fighting Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory disease primarily affecting the small and large intestine), according to Canadian researchers. “Our data suggests that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn’s disease,” Dr. John White, endocrinologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, Canada, said in a statement.

Vitamin D3or cholecalciferol is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D that is produced when ultraviolet light of the proper wavelength (UVB) from the sun strikes our bare skin. Exposing the skin to sunlight without sunblock or clothing and not blocked by glass will produce about 20 000 IU of vitamin D in about 30 minutes. This is about 100 times the amount recommended by the government for health. Once the body hits that 20000 unit level the ultraviolet light begins to degrade any excess Vitamin D that is being produced. That is why you can never get too much Vitamin D from sunlight! Darker complected individuals would need to supplement more than their fair skinned counterparts as the melatonin in the skin will partially block some of the suns rays, reducing the amount of Vitamin D produced in the skin.

If healthy adults and adolescents actively avoid sun exposure the recent research suggests that they would need to supplement with up to 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. To get this amount from milk you would have to drink about 50 glasses of milk. The current amount of Vitamin D recommended by Health Canada is 200 IU up to the age of 50 and 400 IU over 50 which is enough to help prevent bone disease like rickets and osteoporosis. But this level is not nearly high enough to produce protection against certain cancers, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and cold and flu viruses.

Only a few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, including:

Milk 1 cup 100 IU

Fortified rice or soy beverage 1 cup 80 IU

Fortified orange juice 1/2 cup 45 IU

Fortified margarine 2 tsp 51 IU

Egg yolk 1 25 IU

Herring or trout, cooked 75 g 156 IU

Mackerel, cooked 75 g 80 IU

Salmon, Atlantic, cooked 75 g 225 IU

Salmon, canned or cooked* 75 g 608 IU

Sardines, Atlantic, canned 75 g 70 IU

Sardines, Pacific, canned 75 g 360 IU

Tuna, canned, light or white 75 g 41 IU

Tuna, canned, yellowfin (albacore, ahi) 75 g 105 IU

Tuna, skipjack, cooked 75 g 381 IU

Tuna, bluefin, cooked 75 g 690 IU

* includes Chinook, Coho, Humpback (pink), Sockeye

Historically there has been a lot of paranoia over the subject of Vitamin D toxicity. This is why the current levels are so low. Previous research performed years ago caused the belief that taking more than 2000 IU of Vitamin D per day would cause toxicity. This is simply not the case. Current research by Dr Reinhold Vieth PhD Professor Departments of Nutritional Sciences, Laboratory Medicine, and Pathobiology University of Toronto shows that vitamin D3 toxicity does not occur unless there has been chronic (likely 2 years) supplementation of over 20 000 IU per day. Animal data suggests that the oral LD50 (the dose it takes to kill half the animals) for cholecalciferol would be equivalent to a 110-pound adult taking 176,000,000 IU or 440,000 of the 400 unit cholecalciferol capsules. There are some conditions that can cause a hypersensitivity to Vitamin D including some forms of lung cancer, Non- Hodgkins lymphoma, sarcoidoisis and granulomatous TB. These patients need to be closely monitored by a knowledgeable doctor if they are trying to correct a Vitamin D deficiency.


Most of of us living in this northern latitude simply do not get enough sun exposure to produce the Vitamin D we need. In the summer months if you do sunbathe for 30 minutes then there is no need to supplement on those days. In the late fall and winter months taking about 4000-5000 IU per day is warranted. In the early spring and fall 2000 IU should suffice.

Infants and children under the age of one should obtain a total of 1000 IU per day from their formula, sun exposure, or supplements. As most breast milk contains little or no vitamin D, breast-fed babies should take 1000 IU per day as a supplement unless they are exposed to sunlight. The only exception to this are lactating mothers who either get enough sun exposure or take enough vitamin D (usually 4,000–6,000 IU per day) to produce breast milk that is rich in vitamin D. Formula fed babies should take an extra 600 IU per day until they are weaned.

Children over the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight per day, depending on latitude of residence, skin pigmentation, and sun exposure. On the days they are outside in the summer sun, they do not need to take any; in the winter they will need to supplement accordingly.

Children over the age of 10 years old should follow instructions for adults detailed above.

The sun exposure I am talking about does not involve getting a sun burn!! 20 minutes of uncovered sun exposure is enough to elevate the Vitamin D levels to healthy levels. Then, cover up!!

And remember this information is referring specifically to Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. There are other synthetic types available which can cause toxicity at higher levels.

The best way to approach Vitamin D supplementation is to get your 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, also called a 25(OH)D. Levels should be above 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/L) year-round, in both children and adults. This would involve visiting your doctor’s office or making an appointment with a Naturopath. Typically you would need to get tested a few times to evaluate what level of supplementation will keep your Vitamin D levels at their optimum.

A great resource for more information about Vitamin D is at the Vitamin D council’s website (link is on the right side of this page).

The Vitamin D Council is a group of concerned researchers and health professionals who believe many humans are needlessly suffering and dying from Vitamin D Deficiency. Their goal is to educate the public and professionals about Vitamin D Deficiency and its numerous associated diseases. They have a free Vitamin D Newsletter that has a circulation of over 40,000 and growing. They maintain a website with over 5,000 unique visitors per day. The Vitamin D Council would like to sponsor a series of educational conferences aimed at the general public, physicians, and the press to alert them about the extent and consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency and the simple steps that can be taken to avoid it.

If you have any questions about Vitamin D and its importance in your health feel free to call me at Inspire Chiropractic at 519.425.0202 or email me at

As well, if there are any other health or chiropractic questions that you would like me to write a note about, please let me know! I am always looking for ideas about topics that you may have questions about.

And remember, Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.



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