In the article we wrote about the telltale signs that your body needs more vitamin D, we pointed out that around 42 percent of Americans meet the criteria for clinical vitamin D insufficiency. With such a significant portion of the population not getting enough of this important vitamin, it’s not surprising to know that there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding vitamin D.
To help set the record straight, here are five surprising myths about vitamin D.
Myth 1: we can get enough vitamin D from food and sunshine
You may know vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin,” which is a fitting name because our skin is actually able to convert a limited range of the sun’s UVB rays into vitamin D3—however, it’s simply impossible to get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight alone (especially if you’re following safe sun exposure practices).
Plus, the process of converting UVB rays into vitamin D3 is affected by a number of factors like how much time you spend outside, geographical location, season, UV index, climate, pollution, skin tone, and age.
In this day and age (and season, for many of us), we are certainly not spending the bulk of our time outdoors. So, it’s logical to think that integrating a lot of vitamin-D-rich foods in our diet will fill this nutrient gap — but unfortunately, even foods that are the richest in vitamin D don’t give our bodies enough to meet our daily needs.
Myth 2: vitamin D levels above 30 ng/ml = sufficiency
The most accurate way to measure your vitamin D status is to get your 25(OH)D blood level tested. When tested, you will either have a result of below 20 ng/ml (considered vitamin D deficiency), 20 ng/ml to 30 ng/ml (considered vitamin D insufficiency), or above 30 ng/ml (considered “sufficient)”.
These are standard ranges in the clinical world, however, nutrition and health experts agree that our bodies need levels at or above 50 ng/ml to provide the vitamin D our bodies need to carry out physiological functions in the best way possible.
Myth 3: 1,000 IU of daily vitamin D is enough to achieve sufficiency
If you are one of the many individuals out there without sufficient vitamin D, then, unfortunately, a low dose of 1,000 IU won’t be enough to surpass the 30 ng/ml range. According to research published by the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, taking 1,000 IU daily (of D3, not D2, which is less potent) will only raise 25(OH)D levels by approximately 10 ng/ml.
That makes a high-potency vitamin D supplement of 5,000 IU per day ideal for most people.
Myth 4: vitamin D toxicity is a tangible concern
Technically, vitamin D toxicity (also called hypervitaminosis D) is possible, however, reaching toxic levels of vitamin D is very difficult, which is no surprise as simply getting sufficient levels of vitamin D is hard enough already.
In a 2018 review published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, experts concluded that 25(OH)D concentrations in our blood must exceed 150 ng/ml to become a concern. That’s three times higher than the goal for true sufficiency.
Myth 5: all vitamin D supplements are created equal
As we mentioned earlier, vitamin D supplementation at the proper dosage is crucial to achieving vitamin D sufficiency. However, other aspects of your chosen supplement also influence how effective it is.
Firstly, you’ll want to choose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) over D2 (ergocalciferol) because the former is simply much more potent. You should also consider the sustainability of your vitamin D3 source and look for organic plant-origin options.
To ensure optimal absorption and effectiveness of your supplement, take it with a fat source, or choose a supplement that has healthy fats built in.