The “official” results are finally in for vitamin D: the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) has been increased significantly, which is great news.
With studies and evidence piling up in recent years showing strong associations between vitamin D deficiency and increased risks for diseases like diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and auto-immune diseases, the U.S. Institute of Medicine commissioned the Fitness and Nutrition Board (FNB) early in 2010 to review the current RDA and Tolerable Upper Intake (TUI – safe daily amounts) vitamin D levels. Basically stating what are normal vitamin D levels and what is a safe amount to take without causing a vitamin D overdose concern, if there is one.
The long-awaited report from the FNB was released on November 30, 2010 and revealed a significant increase in the RDA and TUI vitamin D levels. The RDA for people adults changed from 200 IU per day to 600 IU – an increase of 300%. The TUI for adults doubled from 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU.
These increases are a step in the right direction of raising awareness of the importance of vitamin D and recognizing that higher levels are needed to maintain optimal health. I’m thrilled that the critical benefits of vitamin D are finally on the radar of the government nutritional bodies (which are typically a bit behind and quite conservative compared to the researchers and clinicians on the front lines of health and nutrition).
However, I am a bit disappointed with two points of the report. One is that the FNB didn’t change the minimum amount of vitamin D levels each person should have in her body (as measured by blood test – they left the minimum level at 20 ng/mL [nanograms per milliliter]). One of the most well-known vitamin D experts, Dr. Michael F. Holick of the Boston University Medical Center says that blood levels up to 100 ng/mL are perfectly safe with no risk of Vitamin D overdose (assuming you don’t have an uncommon inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis), and he recommends a minimum vitamin D blood level of 30 ng/mL based on his research.
So what is the right vitamin D3 dosage for you to take that will keep your blood levels between the optimum range of 30 – 100 ng/mL?
First, see your doctor and ask for a 25(OH)D blood test to see what your blood levels of vitamin D are. If you are below 30 or even 50 ng/mL I suggest you take a vitamin D supplement to boost your levels (I’ve found Vital Choice to be the best). Dr. Holick found that having his adult patients take 3,000 IU of vitamin D supplements daily kept their blood levels between 40 and 60 ng/mL.
How much you will need to take should be decided with your doctor and will depend on many variables, including your health needs, where you live, the time of year, and how much clothing you wear (sun exposure), how dark your skin is, etc. For example, I take a relatively high amount of vitamin D supplement because I already have several health conditions that are eased by vitamin D (autoimmune disease and depression), and I have naturally darker skin. But now that I’m in Costa Rica walking around in a swim suit most of the time, I’ve cut my vitamin D supplement dose by a third because my body is making more from the sun than it did when I was bundled up in the cold, snowy winter back in Utah.
The other point I find very disappointing from the FNB findings is that their report stopped short of confirming the benefits of vitamin D in preventing and fighting the diseases and illnesses I mentioned earlier. The FNB decided the research they reviewed couldn’t actually prove a cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the risks of these illnesses, though there doesn’t seem to be much conflict among the researchers and reports.
While it’s a bit frustrating that the board seems to be dragging its heels in confirming what so many studies have already shown, there is enough clear evidence of the advantages for me to make getting enough vitamin D a priority. I’ve noticed huge improvements to critical aspects of my health since I increased my daily intake and I’ve seen great results in others who have done the same. So get yourself a great vitamin D supplement and try to get some sun (safely!).