We need a lot more vitamin D than the official recommendations
Lack of vitamin D is linked to an increased risk of virus infections, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, cancer, and osteoporosis. However, the official recommendations for vitamin D intake are way too low, according to two new studies that were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia in 2023. In addition, a German study of athletes has shown that it is better to take individually tailored vitamin D supplements to optimize blood levels of the nutrient instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
Low levels of vitamin D in the blood are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure and stroke. But the official recommendations for vitamin D are not high enough to help patients optimize their blood levels of the nutrient, according to two new studies from Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, USA. Previous studies of vitamin D’s ability to prevent or treat cardiovascular diseases have been insufficient, because the doses that were used were too low to optimize vitamin D levels in the blood of the participants.
The Intermountain Health researchers found that many people needed much higher doses of vitamin D than officially recommended (US recommendations call for 15-20 micrograms daily). In some cases, patients needed as much as 250 micrograms daily, which is way above the official upper threshold level of 100 micrograms/day.
The need for vitamin D varies from person to person based on things like genes, skin type, BMI, diabetes, ageing, and other factors that can influence the body’s endogenous vitamin D synthesis and the activation of the nutrient.
In order to obtain the expected result, the researchers therefore recommend taking vitamin D in doses that are tailored to optimize blood levels of the nutrient in each person. An optimal vitamin D level should be at least 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml).
The need for vitamin D varies a lot
In the first study, 632 patients with a history of heart attack were split into two groups. One group was given the amount of vitamin D that is recommended by the health authorities, while the other group got an individually tailored dose that was intended to raise blood levels of vitamin D to over 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml).
The researchers observed the following in the treatment group:
- Nearly 90 percent of all patients lacked vitamin D
- Of these, 86.5 percent needed more than 50 micrograms (2,000 IU) daily
- 14.6 percent of the patients needed more than 250 microgram (10,000 IU) daily
- 25% of the patients needed to supplement for more than six months before their levels were optimal
The long-term purpose of the randomized study is to find out whether optimal supplementation with vitamin D can reduce cardiovascular diseases. The study is scheduled to continue until 104 of the patients have sustained their second heart attack or die as a result of cardiovascular disease.
The Intermountain Health scientists presented their studies as the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia on November 12th and 13th, 2023.
What makes their research so powerful is that they focused on blood levels of vitamin D. It is worth noting that magnesium is important for our ability to convert and activate the type of vitamin D that we get from sunlight or from supplements. Also, most fair-skinned adults are able to produce around 200 micrograms of vitamin D daily during the sunny season, provided they expose enough skin for the process to happen.
- At northern latitudes we are only able to produce vitamin D during the summer period when the sun sits high in the sky
Athletes also need tailored supplements
Vitamin D is vital for the health and performance of athletes because it is important for bones, muscles, lung function, and inflammation control. Still, many athletes are vitamin D-deficient.
A randomized, controlled study aimed to find out whether vitamin D supplementation could help athletes reach blood levels of vitamin D of 100 nmol/L in 10 weeks. The study was carried out on 90 German athletes who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood (less than 75 nmol/L) during the winter months.
The participants were divided into two groups with one group getting a standard 40-microgram dose daily and other receiving a tailored vitamin D dose. The study showed that those who got tailored doses reached optimal blood levels of vitamin D significantly faster than those who got the standard dose. The scientists point out that individually tailored vitamin D doses are more effective than “one-size-fits-all” doses and conclude that athletes should make sure to get enough vitamin D because it can prevent impaired performance due to injury or disease.
Everyone needs vitamin D in adequate amounts throughout life
Vitamin D supplementation works in different ways in its prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and other ailments. This was demonstrated in a large American study (VITAL). It appears that overweight people need more vitamin D, and the same goes for people of color, seniors, and diabetics because they have difficulty with producing and utilizing the vitamin.
Intermountain Healthcare: New study finds current dosing recommendations may noy help patients achieve optimal levels. EurekAlert 12-Nov-2023
Nikki Hancocks. Study validates formula for personalized vitamin D supplementation in athletes. NutraIngredients 13-Nov-2023
Deirdre K. Tobias at al. Association of Body Weight With Response to Vitamin D Supplementation and Metabolism. JAMA Network Open, 2023
Yixue Yang et al. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on the regulation of blood lipid levels in prediabetic subjects: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2023
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