How can I benefit from vitamin D supplements?

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

Replacing vitamin D in people who are proven to be deficient can potentially improve their health in multiple organ systems, such as bones, cardiac, and neuro/psychological. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily dose of 600 IU (international units).

I would estimate that a third of my patients who were deficient in vitamin D showed clinical improvement in some fashion after a few months of vitamin D replacement. Often it is with mood and energy, and other times it is with very nonspecific aches and pains that the patient previously was attributing to aging. Initially I gave simply over-the-counter doses, but within 6 months saw minimal improvements and switched to supplementing with prescription weekly vitamin D (at 50,000 IU per week doses.) This is the dose that has yielded results both in lab tests and, far more importantly, in patient symptoms.

Scientists know that vitamin D supplements offer a number of benefits for people who don't otherwise get enough of the vitamin. Taken with calcium, a vitamin D supplement may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fracture. It also protects against rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, conditions that soften and weaken bones. Vitamin D supplements have also been shown to lower the risk of falls by more than 20 percent in seniors.

Scientists are exploring a number of other possible benefits, too. For instance, taking a vitamin D supplement may reduce a woman’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). And among postmenopausal women, those taking vitamin D and calcium may be less likely to gain weight.

Some research suggests that taking vitamin D may cut the risk of certain cancers, but the data are mixed. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but there is no clear evidence that taking a supplement improves these conditions.  
Tod Cooperman, MD
Health Education

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient that supports our overall health, and yet many are deficient. Watch consumer healthcare expert Tod Cooperman, MD, explain the main sources of vitamin D, who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency, and how much to take.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.