Vitamin D - "The Sunshine Vitamin"   by DougCuk
** Links checked & updated - Sept 2012 **

(1) Have we been causing many common diseases by avoiding the sun?
The facts are very simple - and understanding them could just save your life.
Fear of skin cancer, and lifestyle changes, have resulted in a significant drop
in regular sun exposure for many people. Researchers are beginning to worry this
could explain the steady increase in many "western" diseases over the last 25 years.

Want a quick introduction? Just watch a few of these short videos.
Dr Cedric Garland - Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention
Dr John Cannell on Vitamin D
Dr Liz Lipski - Nutritionist
Canadian News Report Re Type 1 Diabetes

Some longer more detailed videos:
GrassRootsHealth - Vitamin D Prevents Cancer
Dr Michael Holick Lecture - Prevention of Chronic Diseases
Dr Robert Heaney Lecture - Vitamin D Deficiency

More background information:
Vitamin D Essentials - 4 part Radio Interview with Dr John Cannell
Steve Gibson's Podcast - which inspired the creation of this website - Steve's Webpage.
How could a "simple" vitamin possibly affect so many different health issues?

Scroll to the bottom for links to Vitamin D online.


(2) Vitamin D is unique - unlike ALL other vitamins very little comes from our food.
Almost all of our Vitamin D is produced by the top layer of our skin when it is exposed to the UV radiation in strong sunlight. However in the UK and most of the USA the sun is too low in the sky from November until March to produce ANY Vitamin D from sunlight exposure. We are supposed to build up a store during the summer to carry us through the winter, but because of lifestyle changes and the increasing use of UV sun-block this is no longer happening.

Current research shows that many people in non-equatorial regions have very low Vitamin D levels - especially during the winter. People of African decent, now living in less sunny regions, are at highest risk as the darker your skin tone the slower your Vitamin D production. If you rarely get any strong mid-day sun on unprotected skin you WILL be at high risk of deficiency - and the older you are the worse the problem, as your skin becomes less efficient at generating Vitamin D.

Vitamin D controls calcium metabolism which is vital for bone, muscle and nerve function - but recent research shows it is also critical to your immune response against viruses, bacteria and cancer.

Ever wondered why people in colder climates are more prone to colds and flu in the winter and early spring?
Researchers have discovered that as you run low on Vitamin D your immune response weakens. Trials have proved that people taking "high dose" Vitamin D3 supplements (>2000 IU/day) are extremely resistant to colds and flu. Research results published over the last 10 years show mounting evidence for major resistance to several common cancers, plus a range of neurological and auto-immune conditions.

- Call to action by 40 major Vitamin-D researchers - January 2011
- Experts response to new IOM Vitamin D guidelines - December 2010
- Newcastle University and NHS Trust call for a change in public health policy - January 2010
- BUPA urges everyone to take vitamin D to reduce cancer risk - December 2009
- Consensus Letter published by 12 major Vitamin-D researchers - April 2008

Selected News & Research Links
Recommended Books


(3) Think about this explanation for our current situation:
The human race evolved in equatorial East Africa where the sun's UVB was strong enough to manufacture all of the Vitamin D3 we required - from a natural cholesterol in our skin. When we migrated away from the equator, natural selection quickly eliminated most of the melanin pigmentation from our skin in an attempt to compensate for the much weaker levels of UV radiation in these cooler regions of the world.

This system worked well for most of human history - as the vast majority of the human population were outside in the sun for at least part of the day. But then came the industrial revolution and the majority of the workforce now remained indoors all day. This change of lifestyle caused severe Vitamin D deficiency in industrialised regions leading to mass outbreaks of the bone disease Rickets in children. Treatment with natural and artificial UV light and more recently with Vitamin D supplements had virtually eliminated this disease.

For the last 30 years sunshine has been demonised for causing skin cancer and we are advised to cover up, or apply UV sun-block, before we even go out in the sun. The unfortunate side effect of this advice, if followed rigorously, has been to remove most of the Vitamin D production from our lives. Many studies are now finding widespread Vitamin D deficiency even in sunny regions such as California and Australia - causing rising levels of osteo-malacia and osteo-porosis in adults - and in some, less sunny, northern regions cases of childhood Rickets.
Rise in Rickets Newcastle UK   Rickets in Leicester UK   Vitamin D Deficiency in Scotland

The more worrying issue is that recent research has now discovered that calcium regulation is only one small part of the Vitamin D story - and in fact most tissues of the body require Vitamin D to regulate a wide range of cell processes - especially immune responses and anti-cancer mechanisms. Researchers are beginning to worry that this could explain the sudden mysterious increase in many "western" diseases over the last 25 years - diabetes, high blood pressure, various cancers including breast, prostate and colon cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, seasonal depression, and even autism. Vitamin D Council - Health Conditions section // Vitamin D Council - Theory of Autism // Vitamin D3 World - Summary of health research.

More details on these websites:
The Vitamin D Council & Latest News Page - plus extensive News Archive via Archive menu option.
Vitamin D Health - Dr Michael Holick's Website
Grassroots Health D-Action Website & Breast Cancer Prevention Campaign
Vitamin D3 UK Website and Vitamin D3 World Website

Disease Prevention Chart - from Grassroots Health Website - Acrobat Reader required.
Multiple Sclerosis Society - Vitamin D Factsheet - PDF File - Acrobat Reader required.
How could a "simple" vitamin possibly affect so many different health issues?


(4) How much Vitamin D is required to avoid deficiency:
The current "recommended" supplement level of 400 IU/day was created when we discovered it prevented Rickets in children - the result of a SEVERE Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D3 supplements are added to most commercial baby formulas, and margarines to prevent severe deficiency in children. Many countries also add Vitamin D to milk, but NOT the UK at present. However this low level supplementation was never shown to represent an adequate intake for full health in an adult.

The American National Institutes for Health (NIH) recently stated that a supplement level of 1000 IU/day for infants (birth to 12 months) and 2000 IU/day for adults and older children is now certified as totally safe. Most Vitamin D researchers would prefer a system based on body weight - as it has now been shown that an adult will process 4000-5000 IU/day if available - while a young baby only requires 400 IU/day.

These levels equate to a dose of 75 IU/kg per day (or 35 IU/pound) - which can be used to calculate an individual daily dosage based on body weight. In the summer with moderate sun exposure you might only require half this dose.

One important point is that individual daily dosage levels are not critical as any excess is stored in the bodies fat reserves and released as required - so you can safely take two or three days worth of Vitamin D in one larger dose, instead of taking smaller daily doses.

To put all this in perspective, a young person working outside in the summer sun can make up to 25,000 IU/day of Vitamin D - while an elderly person may only produce 10,000 IU/day under the same conditions. Vitamin D production from UV exposure is self limiting and stops once all the available 7DHC (7‑dehydrocholesterol) in the skin has been converted - the body produces more 7DHC but this takes a day or two to build up again. Any Vitamin D not used immediately is stored for use on days with no sun, and to carry you through the winter - but this only happens if you get enough sun or take "high dose" supplements.



(5) When considering taking Vitamin D supplements you should be aware of the following:
Some existing medical problems can alter the way the body processes high dose Vitamin D supplements.
Always check with your doctor if you have an existing serious illness, especially cancer, kidney or liver disease.
You may need to have your doctor monitor your Vitamin D and Calcium levels to ensure they respond as expected.

Anyone diagnosed with sarcoidosis, primary hyperparathyroidism, or any condition resulting in
elevated blood calcium levels MUST seek medical advice before taking Vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D3 is identical to the supply from our skin - it is converted in the body to activated Vitamin D as required.
An alternative from plant sources called Vitamin D2 does exist - but behaves differently in higher doses - avoid.
You should also avoid combined Vitamin A+D supplements - as high dose Vitamin A can block the action of Vitamin D.

Some Vitamin D researchers suggest that responsible use of a UVB certified (low-pressure tube) sunbed in the winter and moderate sunbathing in the summer is a better alternative to oral supplements. Dr. Holick recommends the safe limit is 25% of the exposure required to get a slight skin reaction - longer exposures do not create any extra Vitamin D3 and could raise your risk of skin cancer. Dr Michael F. Holick's Vitamin D Website

A small number of people experience muscle cramps after they start taking Vitamin D, or even after sun-bathing. This can occur if you are deficient in Magnesium and only becomes evident as your muscle function improves due to the higher Vitamin D levels. Magnesium & Muscle Cramps



(6) All health professionals were taught that you can overdose on Vitamin D:
While this is possible - it is EXTREMELY difficult to do - see this report: Vitamin D Toxicity

For a normal healthy adult toxic levels can only be reached by taking 40,000+ IU/day for many months.
Tests have shown that a normal healthy adult CAN tolerate 10,000 IU/day indefinitely without any problems.

Dr. Robert Heaney discusses new Vitamin D dose-response data
Dr. Cedric Garland discusses dose levels for Cancer Prevention  

The best advice is to calculate a dosage based on your own weight - you can take 75 IU/kg or 35 IU/pound per day.
In the summer with moderate sun exposure you might only require half this dose.



(7) If in doubt ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels via a blood test.
Your doctor needs to order a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test - which can also be written as 25(OH)D.
Ordering the wrong type of Vitamin D test can falsely indicate that your levels are normal.
What you DO NOT want is a 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D test - also written as 1,25(OH)2D.
- Summary of Acceptable Vitamin D Levels

I would suggest you print the following chart and take it with you when you visit your doctor.
It will illustrate why you are concerned and provide details of the Vitamin D levels required to ensure full health.
- Disease Prevention Chart - MS Word required. This version shows levels in both European and US units.



(8) If you want to purchase Vitamin D3 here are some guidelines and web-links:
You should be looking for 2000 IU or 5000 IU Softgel capsules - which contain Vitamin D3 dissolved in vegetable oil.
Dry formulations do exist but are not recommended as they require an oil rich diet to be fully absorbed by the body.
Many companies only stock the 400 IU product - a dose suitable for a newborn baby, not an adult.

Some products quote Vitamin D3 content in micrograms (mcg or µg).
Multiply the figures quoted in micrograms by 40 to convert into IU (International Units).

For the UK - I recommend the following:
Bodykind UK - Vitamin D3: 5000 IU - 180 Softgels // 5000 IU - 360 Softgels
Bodykind UK - Vitamin D3: 2000 IU - 180 Softgels
Bodykind UK - Vitamin D3 Liquid: 1000 IU per drop - 15ml (500 drops)
BigVits UK - Vitamin D3: 5000 IU - Various Brands - Suitable for Adults
BigVits UK - Vitamin D3: 2000 IU - Various Brands - Suitable for Children

Ordering from iHerb.com in California can be worthwhile if you purchase small batches.
Note: For orders above 15 (excluding shipping) you can be charged 20% VAT customs duty.
Now Foods - Vitamin D3: 5000 IU - 120 Softgels // 5000 IU - 240 Softgels
Doctor's Best - Vitamin D3: 5000 IU - 180 Softgels // 5000 IU - 360 Softgels
Healthy Origins - Vitamin D3: 5000 IU - 120 Softgels // 5000 IU - 360 Softgels
D3 Liquid for Babies: Now Foods - 100 IU per drop or Carlson Labs - Baby Ddrops - 400 IU per drop
A comprehensive delivery guide for UK customers appears when you select items and choose View Cart.


For the USA - I recommend the following:
Good value brands are Now Foods, Doctor's Best and Healthy Origins:
iHerb.com - Vitamin D3 - 5000 IU - Various brands - Suitable for Adults
iHerb.com - Vitamin D3 - 2000 IU - Various brands - Suitable for Children
iHerb.com - Vitamin D3 - Liquid    - Various brands - Various doses
Now Foods - 100 IU per drop or Carlson Labs - 400 IU per drop - Suitable for Babies

Doctor's Best Vitamin D3 - from Amazon.com USA
5000 IU - 180 Softgels // 5000 IU - 360 Softgels
2000 IU - 180 Softgels // 2500 IU - 360 Softgels

Live Long and Prosper
DougCuk - Webmaster of Stargateuk.info