Published on March 31, 2021
One of the most important things to understand with vitamin D is the variability in individual dose-response
It is not uncommon to hear general suggestions about how much vitamin D people need. Whether considering the extremely low recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D as set by the National Academy of Medicine (previously the IOM) or a general suggestion of intake, such as 4,000 IU per day, it is impossible to know how much might be “right” for one person to the next. In fact, a GrassrootsHealth analysis showed that among all adult participants taking an average of 4,000 IU vitamin D per day from supplements, approximately 25% were still below the recommended 40-60 ng/ml.
Why You Can’t Assume Your Supplement is Enough
Everyone responds differently to vitamin D… by up to 6 times for the same supplement amount! Whether getting your vitamin D from sun or supplement, several factors can affect how much vitamin D is made, absorbed, or converted for use in the body. The infographic below summarizes some of these different factors that can affect how much vitamin D the body may actually be getting on a daily basis.
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(Great message to share with anyone who is concerned about their health!)
Are you relying on supplements to get your vitamin D? If so, it is important to understand how certain factors can influence how an individual’s vitamin D level responds to their vitamin D supplementation amount (called the dose-response). These factors can cause a wide range of serum level responses that can be produced when looking at any specific supplementation amount. For example, it is possible for a supplemental intake of 4000 IU/day to result in a serum level of 25 ng/ml (62.5 nmol/L) in one individual, and 60 ng/ml (150 nmol/L) in another.
The following factors influence the variability in vitamin D dose-response for each individual:
Co-Nutrient Intake. A lack of key vitamin D co-nutrients can keep vitamin D levels from rising or inhibit its proper use. Examples of important co-nutrients include magnesium, vitamin K2, calcium, and others.
Digestion. Certain digestive conditions such as irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, or celiac disease can limit the absorption of vitamin D in the gut. Those with diseases of the liver (e.g. fatty liver) or pancreas, who have had their gallbladder removed, or who have had bariatric surgery bypassing the small intestine are more likely to have trouble absorbing or metabolizing vitamin D. For these individuals, an increased dosage or other vitamin D metabolites may be needed (please consult with your physician if this is the case).
It is also important to take vitamin D with a fatty meal, as doing so can help increase absorption.
Body weight/BMI. Vitamin D, as a fat-soluble vitamin, has a higher affinity for the fatty tissues of the body. Therefore, those with a higher BMI will likely need to take a larger vitamin D supplement dose to achieve their target level.
Genetics. New research is showing that certain genetic variants can lead to decreased conversion of vitamin D within the body.
Medications and Conditions. A recent illness or injury may result in a lower vitamin D level. Digestive disorders, as mentioned above, can decrease absorption of vitamin D. Also, some drugs including statins, prednisone and weight-loss drugs can block vitamin D.
Age. With increased age comes a reduced ability to produce vitamin D in the skin in response to UVB exposure and a reduction in the kidney’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form.
What Additional Factors Affect Vitamin D Levels?
Sun Exposure: Where, When, How. If you’re relying more heavily on sun exposure (or indoor UVB) for vitamin D, not exposing enough skin, high sunscreen use, or lack of mid-day (10 am – 2 pm) exposure will limit vitamin D production. Environmental factors such as smog and cloud cover or residing in a higher latitude will also reduce exposure to UVB radiation.
Skin Color. The amount of melanin in the skin influences vitamin D production. Someone with more melanin (darker skin) might need 30 minutes in the sun to achieve the same production of vitamin D that someone with less melanin (lighter skin) will achieve in 10 minutes. While some people can achieve very high levels (~60 ng/ml or 150 nmol/L) of vitamin D through regular sun exposure alone, others cannot achieve these levels without supplemental vitamin D.
What About Vitamin D from Food?
Certain foods that have naturally occurring vitamin D (e.g. fish, meat, and eggs) or are fortified with vitamin D (e.g. milk and other dairy products, some orange juice and cereals) can impact vitamin D levels. However, the amount of vitamin D available in food is rather small compared to what most people need to achieve a blood level of at least 40 ng/ml (e.g. salmon has ~450 IU/serving and fortified milk has ~120 IU/cup).
How do You Know What Dose is Good for YOU?
The only way to know is to test your level! Testing vitamin D levels versus blind supplementation is essential to know for sure if what you are taking is the right amount for you. Once you test your vitamin D level and know where you are NOW, you can account for any upcoming changes in lifestyle over the coming months and adjust your intake to reach (or maintain) your target.
GrassrootsHealth scientists recommend a vitamin D level between 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L) as an optimal range, however, some individuals may choose to aim slightly higher for reasons such as cancer prevention. Once choosing a target level, individuals can use the vitamin D*calculator to help determine an estimated daily dose of vitamin D. It may take several rounds of testing, adjusting, and re-testing to find the dose that works best for you in keeping within your target range.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D for Your Health?
With almost 90% of the general population having vitamin D levels below the recommended 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L), it is obvious that most people need more vitamin D. While most of us cannot achieve a vitamin D level of 40-60 ng/ml from sun alone, either due to our lifestyle, where we live, or other circumstances, we can certainly reach those levels with the right amount of supplementation.
By joining the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to our study, but you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it. Do you know what your status of vitamin D, omega-3s, and other essential nutrients is? Could your levels be improved? Test now to find out!
We now have a NEW GIFTING SERVICE that allows you to quickly send ‘Gift Cards’ to friends, family and coworkers who you consider might need immediate access to testing, and to Claim the Joy of Your Health TODAY. Give the gift today!
What does the Research Say about Vitamin D & COVID-19?
It’s TIME to start saving lives! If you can help PREVENT the majority of the death, it’s time! What’s it costing you/us not to take action NOW?
There is much published research that supports a clear link between vitamin D and COVID-19 showing that higher vitamin D levels are related to:
Be sure to educate yourself on the benefits and importance of vitamin D for immune health, and take steps to ensure you and your loved ones are getting enough.
You can review all of the COVID-19 and immune health information we have shared on this page.
What Does it Take YOU to Get Your D to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)?
Did you know your health could be greatly affected by making sure you have a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)? Help us help you.
STEP 1 - Do you know what your vitamin D level is? If not, be sure to test today to find out.
STEP 2 – Determine your target level. Are you at your target level? Experts recommend a level of at least 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).
STEP 3 – Need to boost your level? Use the D*calculator to see how much vitamin D it may take to reach your target. Opt for the Loading Dose for a quicker boost.
STEP 4 – Optimize how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D with co-nutrients and these simple steps.
STEP 5 – Re-Test! This is an important step to make sure you have reached your target level, and to ensure you are not taking too much! Re-testing after 3-4 months is recommended.
STEP 6 – Adjust, Repeat…
Give your immune system the nutrients it needs to support a healthy you and protect yourself from unnecessary diseases, especially COVID-19.
The first Randomized Controlled Trial on vitamin D and COVID-19 has shown a 96% lower risk of ICU admission for those receiving vitamin D (as 25(OH)D to quickly boost vitamin D blood levels) along with the standard treatment, compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.
These results support many previous observational studies showing a relationship between vitamin D levels and intake and COVID-19 severity.
GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute has launched the new Immune Boost project with the use of our myData-myAnswers nutrient health system that nearly 15,000 people are already using for their health. Specific markers that influence immune health are suggested for testing as part of this project including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index
- Essential elements magnesium, selenium, and zinc
Our goal is to demonstrate how one can use the Nutrient Research Model established by Dr. Robert Heaney to show the effect of vitamin D serum levels of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) on risk reduction for all ethnicities in the population. Status and intake of other nutrients will also be analyzed for any type of relationship to immune status and symptom severity. Join the project today!
Please let us know if you're interested in helping sponsor this project.
Through GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute, you can also test your essential elements magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, as well as your omega-3 levels, inflammation levels and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Find out your levels today! Log on to the test selection page (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your levels can be improved.
Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!
How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created the Personal Health Nutrient Decision System called
For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!