Vitamin D, or more accurately described, hormone D, is an extremely vital nutrient. In addition to the well known connection between bone health and vitamin D, mounting evidence has also linked vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, immune compromise, autoimmune conditions, such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis and even certain types of cancers.

According to Dr. Robert Heaney, an endocrinologist and professor at Creighton University’s Osteoporosis Research Center since 1960, we need to become more aware of how much vitamin D our bodies need daily, where to get it and whether we’re getting enough. For the past 20 years, Dr. Heaney has been addressing these areas of focus regarding vitamin D. 

It wasn’t until the 1990s that a method of measuring vitamin D levels became available in the clinical setting. Once doctors began measuring patient’s vitamin D levels, they were surprised to observe a trend of low levels in healthy patients. This evidence spawned a great deal of interest in vitamin D supplementation and extensive research on its full function in the body. Vitamin D had not received much attention in the medical community prior to this time, since it was mainly connected to preventing and treating rickets, a disease caused by vitamin d deficiency, leading to softening and weakening of the bones.

Since that time however, research has revealed an extensive list of additional health benefits of adequate vitamin D levels. According to Dr. Heaney, one scientific revelation that has occurred in just the past 10-15 years has been a major medical eye-opener.

Every minute of every day, our cellular machinery, in every tissue of our body, is constantly renewing itself and in order to accomplish this, each cell must tap into its nucleus and determine what type of protein sequence it needs to synthesize in order to create the biochemical components necessary for that new cell. If the body does not contain the proper biochemical machinery, that cell will not be able to develop or repair itself properly. What was not known prior to a decade or so ago is that a part of that biochemical machinery that activates each cells DNA is the active form of vitamin D. If a particular cell does not contain sufficient levels of active vitamin D, that cell will not be able to retrieve the necessary information in its own nucleus or protein sequence to adequately repair itself. This is one reason why vitamin D deficiency is linked to certain autoimmune conditions and cancer. Every cell in our body needs that active vitamin D to function efficiently. Dr. Heaney goes into detail on this topic in an interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola called Maintaining Vitamin D Levels.

How much vitamin D is optimal?

As Dr. Heaney points out in his interview with Dr. Mercola, one of the embarrassing secrets in the nutrition community is that optimal levels are not known.  What is known and recommended are the minimal levels necessary to prevent disease and toxic levels to avoid, but there is no recommendation on beneficial or optimal levels of vitamin D.  The Institute of Medicine defines the requirement based on the least amount of that nutrient necessary to prevent disease.  That dose will be much lower than if the requirement was based on levels needed for optimal health.

According to the results of a study conducted recently by Dr. Bruce Hollis, on nursing mothers, the daily vitamin D dose that was sufficient to provide enough through the mother's breast milk for the infant and cover the mother's needs was 6,000 i.u per day.  Another approach that’s been taken to determine an optimal level of vitamin D is measuring serum levels in tribal groups currently living on the equatorial plains of East Africa, where our ancestors originated.  This has been conducted by Dutch investigators, with results showing that these tribes contain blood levels of 40-60 ng/mL(nanograms per milliliter), which would require 5,000-6,000 i.u per day as well.  Dr. Heaney recommends we obtain that daily dose of vitamin D from all sources, including sun exposure and food sources, in addition to supplementation.

Dr. Heaney feels strongly that vitamin D deficiency is plaguing the majority of the population in industrialized nations and is contributing to the increase in chronic diseases and the rise in health care costs.

The good news is that vitamin D is inexpensive and extremely powerful in optimizing our health. I can attest to the benefit of taking a higher supplemental dose of vitamin D3 on my blood levels.  In 2013, my daily supplement dose was 1500 i.u per day and in May, my 25-Hydroxy serum level was 40.9 ng/mL, which is within range, but below the optimal range of 50-70 ng/mL. I increased my daily dose to 5,000 i.u. in September of 2013. My 25-Hydroxy serum levels were 51.6 ng/mL in December, 2014. I'm happy to report that my April 2018 blood level of D is 69 ng.mL!  I strongly recommend increasing your daily dose of supplemental D3 and since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, make sure to take it with a meal containing fat to optimize absorption. Here is the brand I have been using: Garden of Life Raw D3

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 20 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. There is no One-Size-Fits-All dietary approach, but Ms Jubilee has experienced great success utilizing specific dietary protocols such as intermittent fasting, time restricted eating, low carb/ketogenic dietary regimens and AIP (autoimmune protocol) in her practice.

In 2005, Lisa co-created Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan. The inspiration behind Living Proof was to create a private fitness and wellness space, where the importance of nutrition and functional movement are emphasized in tandem.

As of March 2020, in order to continue to service her clients and the public at large during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Jubilee is offering all of her nutrition counseling and support services remotely. Feel free to contact Lisa with any questions: