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A recent vitamin D supplement review by Consumer Labs referenced the “safe upper tolerable intake” of 4,000 IU per day for vitamin D, set by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS, previously the IOM), and labeled supplements containing more as “very high dose” with a warning to reference the IOM limit.

Who sets the standards?

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit institution comprised of scholars in various scientific fields, most of whom donate their time. Its purpose is to provide independent, fact-based recommendations on scientific matters including science, engineering, and medicine. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is the branch under NAS that is concerned with medical matters. In 2015 the name was changed from the Institute of Medicine to the National Academy of Medicine, but with regard to recommendations that were set before the change people still refer to the IOM.

In November 2010, the IOM issued an updated recommended dietary allowance (RDA) and tolerable upper limit (UL) for vitamin D with recommendations varying by age.

Age RDA UL
0-6 months 400 IU 1,000 IU
0-12 months 400 IU 1,500 IU
1-3 years 600 IU 2,500 IU
4-8 years 600 IU 3,000 IU
9-13 years 600 IU 4,000 IU
14-18 years 600 IU 4,000 IU
19-50 years 600 IU 4,000 IU
51-70 years 600 IU 4,000 IU
>70 years 800 IU 4,000 IU

Source: Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

The RDA is set at a level determined to be sufficient for 97.5% of the population meet or exceed the specific nutrient requirement. For vitamin D, the panel concluded that 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/L) was the correct goal for vitamin D blood levels (25(OH)D) to maintain bone health and the RDA was set to allow 97.5% of the population to get to that level.

What does the vitamin D scientific community think?

Several vitamin D researchers disagreed with the new recommendations based on two main points: 1) That 20 ng/ml is not enough for bone health, the goal for that should be 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L) and 2) That even if the goal is 20 ng/ml, the RDAs set will not meet that goal for 97.5% of the population – the math was not done correctly. Immediately after the new recommendations were issued, there were the following key publications:

The Vitamin D-lemma – Written by Amy Maxman for Nature, a well-researched news article on the new RDA and the scientific community’s reaction to the new recommendations.

Endocrine Society Guidelines – Michael Holick led a team of vitamin D researchers to publish standards for the Endocrine Society. They were similar to the IOM’s, but with a higher upper limit for adults of 10,000 IU/day.

A Statistical Error in the Estimation of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin D – The first research paper on the subject, written by Paul Veugelers and John Ekwaru and published October 2014 in Nutrients and explained in this blog.

Canadian and US Petition – Pure North, a non-profit organization in Canada committed to delivering wellness programs, started a petition right away.

GrassrootsHealth published Analysis – This analysis, led by Robert Heaney, used D*action data and found, similar to Veugelers and Ekwaru, that the RDA was off by an order of magnitude. Described in detail in this blog.

Comment from the Harvard School of Public Health – by Heike Bischoff-Ferrarri and Walter Willett.

Heaney Interview with Dr. Mercola – Read the recap or watch a 20-minute interview on this topic with Dr. Robert Heaney.

Heaney personal blog

Responses from some of our scientist panel

Could 5,000 IU Vitamin D per Day be Toxic?

Several previous GrassrootsHealth posts have addressed the topic of how much is too much for vitamin D, including a review of a study by Kimball et al., a response to address the concern for kidney stones and kidney diseases with high vitamin D intake, and an overview of when to be concerned about vitamin D toxicity.

Vitamin D Toxicity is Difficult to Achieve

The chart below shows a plot of the vitamin D serum levels as a function of reported vitamin D intake from the GrassrootsHealth cohort, adjusted to an individual weighing 150 pounds. The dotted blue line is the best fit line through the data.

Shown on the figure are the percent of participants who are at or above 40, 60, and 100 ng/ml for various vitamin D supplement intake amounts. Fewer than 1% of participants have vitamin D levels ≥100 ng/ml resulting from an intake of 6000 IU/day or less, and no participants reached a level above 200 ng/ml, which is the demonstrated level at which toxicity may occur, as illustrated by the red line at the top of the chart.

Click to Download & Print

In conclusion, it is important to remember that the appropriate measure for the vitamin D requirement is not intake, but achieved serum level. The requirement that the recommendations for any nutrient must be based on intake does not incorporate research now available showing the wide variation in response to intake, and misses the key point of achieving the appropriate measure to help people be healthy and prevent disease.

Vitamin D recommendations in a nutshell

Institute of Medicine Endocrine Society GrassrootsHealth
RDA 600 IU/day 1500-2000 IU/day n/a – test to see
Blood level recommendations >20 ng/ml >30 ng/ml 40-60 ng/ml
Tolerable upper limit 4000 IU/day 10,000 IU/day n/a

 

Are you getting enough vitamin D?

Make sure you know your vitamin D level, and take steps to keep it within a target of 40-60 ng/ml or 100-150 nmol/L! 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 shop (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your level can be improved.

Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!

Click Here to Access the Shop

How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?

To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created an online tracking system called myData-myAnswers. 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!

Important Message

NEWS ALERT: States, Governments Acknowledge the Need for Vitamin D to Build the Immune System; Vitamin D*action has achieved a major milestone of ‘Moving Research into PRACTICE’!

EVERYONE needs to know about the benefits of vitamin D... We need your help to do this. Donating $25.00 today will positively affect millions of lives!

We will take this opportunity to use our extensive network to get pertinent information on vitamin D to the new US COVID Panel as well as local and state government representatives around the world.

Donate $25 today to help support this outreach effort (and, let us know if your employer could match the donations made by individuals from now until January 1, 2021!). You can also "text-to-give" by simply texting Daction to 44321.

Donations made through GiveLively are received in full by GrassrootsHealth.

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.

NEWS ALERT

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.

Review the Latest Nutrient Research for COVID-19

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
  • hsCRP

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.

CLICK HERE for updates and new information about the 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!

Click Here to Access the Test Page

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!