Why You Should Still Take Vitamin D

Recently the U.S. Preventive Task Force stated that the combination of vitamin D at 400 IUs and calcium at 1000 milligrams cannot be recommended as supplementation to prevent fractures in postmenopausal women.

When this recommendation was published, I had quite a few patients email and call me about stopping their calcium and vitamin D. I pointed out to them the fact that vitamin D has many other benefits. Calcium is important as well and can best be assimilated when it is consumed as food (cheese, milk, kale, broccoli, etc.).
Vitamin D has been found to improve balance and muscle function. It boosts the immune system and reduces weight gain, and it helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Population studies have found that adequate vitamin D levels correlate with lower mortality rates. In fact, a recent study published by the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) found that early mortality in seniors was significantly reduced in those who took calcium and vitamin D.
The task force bases its recommendations on scientific evidence. These days you can find scientific evidence to go in multiple directions. I understand that. But, there comes a point where common sense needs to prevail. We now live in a world where the sun’s rays have become stronger due to the thinning of the ozone layer. This requires the use of sunscreen. The use of sunscreen prevents the absorption of vitamin D, which is a necessary vitamin for bone and overall health.
Populations deprived of vitamin D are seeing a resurgence of rickets. This is a disease where the bones become brittle as a result of vitamin D deficiency. In northern climates the incidence of osteoporosis is high due to the lack of vitamin D exposure. Most practicing physicians would agree that when vitamin D is supplemented in people with low levels, the patients improve.
I recommend that my patients take vitamin D (usually a minimum of 1000 IUs) and a total intake of 800 milligrams of calcium (mostly from food) daily. I monitor vitamin D levels and aim for a level between 40 and 80.
It is often hard to decide what to do when every other day or even every other hour there are different messages given to the public. Here is my clear message: Do not stop your vitamin D and calcium. Even if the combination does not prevent postmenopausal fractures, it will contribute to your overall health.