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Study Finds Supplements Best Way to Get Vitamin D

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, December 27, 2009, abstracted from “Vitamin D: A Bright Spot in Nutrition Research” posted on the Harvard Medical School website

With its health benefits classified as nothing short of a “miracle” by the Weston Price Foundation (1), vitamin D deficiency carries long-term health risks (2) and is still very common in children (3).  

In a press release from Harvard Medical School (4), supplements are recommended as the best way to get sufficient vitamin D when vitamin D from sunlight isn’t possible during the winter months.  The current vitamin D recommendations by the National Institutes of Health are 200 IU for people up to 50 years of age, 400 IU for people 51-70 years, and 600 IU for 71 years and older (5).

The researchers cite sunlight as “an efficient way” to get vitamin D but state that “the rays that stimulate vitamin D production are the same ones that, with prolonged exposure, cause sunburn and skin cancer.”  They then talk about the difficulty of getting proper exposure between November and March “if you live north of a line connecting San Francisco with St. Louis and Richmond, Virginia”.  That is where vitamin D supplements come in.

According to the researchers, “Supplements are the simplest, safest way to get vitamin D”, recommending both multivitamins and calcium supplements that come with added vitamin D.  They cite getting 800 to 1,000 IU per day from supplements is “a good goal.”

The researchers point to several health-promoting effects of vitamin D that include:

Coronary artery disease
Men with low vitamin D were twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with plenty of the vitamin in circulation.

High blood pressure
Several studies suggest that low vitamin D contributes to high blood pressure, the third-leading cause of disability (6) and now declared a worldwide epidemic (7).

Heart failure   
Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in those with heart failure, which costs our healthcare system $ 30 billion per year (8).  Having adequate vitamin D levels would help strengthen heart contractions.

Statin-Related Muscle Pain
It is estimated that as many as 30 million Americans take statin drugs, which generated $34 billion in sales in 2007 (9).  A common side effect of statins is muscle pain. In a study of 128 men and women with statin-related muscle pain, two-thirds had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels under 20 ng/mL. Among those who took a vitamin D supplement while continuing the statin, muscle pain disappeared in 90% (10).

Preliminary trials suggest that too little vitamin D can leave the body prone to infection, but having enough in circulation can help the body fight off the flu, tuberculosis, and infections of the upper respiratory tract ($ billion per year).

Finally, the researchers conclude that “It makes sense to ask your doctor to test your vitamin D level, and to take a supplement if it is in the deficient or insufficient range.”

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.CompleteChiropracticHealthcare.com


1. “The Miracle of Vitamin D” posted on www.westonaprice.org/
2. Wagner CL. Does Vitamin D Make the World Go ‘Round’? Breastfeeding Medicine. December 2008, 3(4): 239-250
3. Mansbach JM.  Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels Among US Children Aged 1 to 11 Years:  Do Children Need More Vitamin D?  Pediatrics 2009;124;1404-1410
4. “Vitamin D: A Bright Spot in Nutrition Research” posted on  www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Heart_Letter/2009/December/vitamin-d-a-bright-spot-in-nutrition-research?print=1
5. “Vitamin D” posted on the office of dietary supplements http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp
6. M Ezzati, AD Lopez, A Rodgers, S Vander Hoorn and CJ. Murray, Selected major risk factors and global and regional burden of disease. Lancet 360 (2002), pp. 1347–1360
7. Casas JP.  Homocysteine and stroke: evidence on a causal link from mendelian randomization.  Lancet 2005; 365(9455): 224-232
8. A Report From the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2006 Update.  Circulation 2006;113:e85-e151
9. “How Many People Take Statin Drugs?” posted on www.forbes.com/2008/10/29/cholesterol-pharmacuticals-statins-biz-cx_mh_1030cholesterol.html
10. Ahmed W.   Low serum 25 (OH) vitamin D levels (<32 ng/mL) are associated with reversible myositis-myalgia in statin-treated patients.  Transl Res 2009 Jan;153(1):11-6. Epub 2008 Dec 6.