Share The Wealth by Chris Gupta
December 15, 2006

Re: Lack of Vitamin D - The Real Reason Flu Hits In Winter

Thanks to Adeha, for these comprehensive and important comments regarding the Lack of Vitamin D - The Real Reason Flu Hits In Winter post. Natural Vit D from foods is metabolized differently than that found in supplements. Often Vit D in Cod Liver Oil is synthetic as the natural variety is destroyed from the processing. Obviously all good things need to used sensibly. This is a must read!

Chris Gupta

See also: Statins and Vitamin D Deficiency - Another Blow

Hi Chris,

I'm also very impressed with the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation, but I understand there are caveats. If you get too much, the consequences are serious. Krispin Sullivan, CN, has been researching vitamin D for years and has written a book, Naked at Noon, that is just about to be published. She has found that, while many people are very vitamin D deficient, some are not, and supplementation for those that are not deficient disturbs calcium metabolism, and can be very dangerous. Dr. Mercola was also very enthusiastic about vitamin D supplementation. However, through personal experience, he discovered it's easy to get too much, both from cod liver oil and from supplementation. Mercola is now very clear that testing is critical if you want to reap the benefits of vitamin D supplementation. Krispin lives in Ca, where people get varying amounts of sun. Mercola lives in Chicago, where there is practically no UVB in the winter. Most of his patients were severely deficient, and for awhile he was recommending high dosages for everybody. Then he found his own blood levels of D skyrocketed when he went south to the sun after doing long term cod liver oil supplementation. How much sun you get is critical, and how much UVB is in the sun you get is also critical. Another factor is the color of your skin. Dark skinned people need 10 times more sun to make vitamin D, so are almost always deficient if they live out of the tropics. Each person's situation is different. The upshot is, for supplementation higher than 800-1000 iu, testing is critical! Sullivan's web article, Miracle of Vitamin D, and the website excerpt below give some idea of the complexity of the subject and how to supplement safely.

All the best,

For Krispin's fascinating introduction to the topic, please read The Miracle of Vitamin D at 

Below is an excerpt from Krispin's site that explains some of her concerns about high dose supplementation. Folks can order a relatively inexpensive blood test for vitamin D at

Sample Question: Do I have to worry about not getting enough UV-B exposure (for Vitamin D), during the winter, since I live in Denver, which, obviously is 5,280 above sea level?   I apologize for  bothering you, but, I could not find this answer anywhere on the Internet.  Obviously this answer will make a big difference on how much Vitamin D supplements I need to take.

The Answer: Yes and no. Each 1,000 feet in elevation equals about 1 degree closer to the equator (from where you are) so Denver, latitude 39.46? at altitude 5,280 ft would have a similar UV-B to a location at 33-34?, not all that UV-B rich. Reflective snow in winter would make mid-day more intense but as to available D it just isn't all that much because UV-B is less in winter in all locations more distant from the equator. Only locations 30? or closer to the equator have consistently intense UV-B.

Any supplemental D should not be based on location because your need for D depends on much more than that; your skin color, your age, your sunning habits, your diet, your genes, your weather (clouds, fog and some urban pollution, aka urban ozone, block UV-B). The only way to know how much D you have and how much D or sun you need and if the D or sun you are using is working is TESTING.

The book, Naked at Noon, does not contain detailed instructions on how to maximize vitamin D safely. For all vitamin D enthusiasts- Please do not take D in amounts larger than 800 IU daily from all sources (including sun exposure) without clinical testing, physician guidance, and continuing support. Read the excerpts from the book. If you believe you need more D please order the Preliminary Report, see below, to make sure you are using D safely.

  •  If you suffer from any disease associated with an alteration of the vitamin D endocrine system, such as sarcoidosis, do not take any D from any source and avoid sunlight.    
  •  Persons with any type of liver or kidney disease should consider vitamin D supplementation only if working with a knowledgeable physician.
  •  If you have been diagnosed with hypo or hyperparathyroidism vitamin D may play a role in your condition but you must work with a physician to determine just how vitamin D will help or hurt.

Harm can occur from excess D as well as insufficiency. Taking D when it is not needed is potentially dangerous no matter what form of D you may be taking.  Do not self treat.

Various websites and 'experts' state high doses of A and D are safe. The information on which this suggestion (not fact, not science) is based is faulty information (including the references and links to a particular vitamin D 'foundation' where you will find more faulty information). The references being presented are based on illogically conceived and executed research published with unsupportable conclusions.  A primary focus of my book is a review of research  which shows  that studies being cited as the basis for claiming high doses of vitamin D are safe were wrong when they were first published. The conclusions drawn by the 'safe vitamin D' research proponents (including the researchers themselves) overlook major flaws in the studies. To mention just one of the flaws (there are many), no study has been done using high dose vitamin D for longer than 6 months. D toxicity (or, for that matter, vitamin A toxicity) may take a year or longer to develop putting the trusting user (victim) at great risk.

For an overview of why caution is advised do read the book excerpts, and  Caution- Living Systems are Complex Systems.

I would say from experience most benefit from extra D, especially D from sunlight, but we are all individuals and what is right for one may not be right for another.

Enthusiastic promoters of 'natural' vitamin D or cod liver oil suggest that, as it is natural, it is safe in high amounts. Some 'experts' use references to 'prove' their claims. These references are outdated, not verifiable, or are from studies using supplementation for short periods of time, less than a year. Most vitamin D studies are less than 6 months due to the high cost of such studies and do not reflect safety or toxicity over time. Clinical data strongly and definitively contradicts any belief that high doses of vitamin D, whatever the form, are safe. This issue is exhaustively addressed in the book. There have been a number of cases reported to me of severe vitamin D excess with serious and debilitating results, including significant bone loss. Wait for the book or order the Preliminary Report.

For the past number of years clinicians, physicians, national media, and the National Institute of Health have been warning Americans to stay out of the sun. The purpose of this warning is intended to prevent melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. In spite of the ever-increasing use of sunscreens and intentional reduction of sun exposure, incidence of this cancer continues to rise. There is evidence that the advice to avoid sunlight may be contributing to the increased incidence of melanoma. One possible reason for this may be issues relating to genetics and extended exposure to UV-A light. When sunscreen is used sun burning is reduced or eliminated and the sunscreen user's time in the sun is extended. While UV-A is not as strong as UV-B it does cause damage over time and most sunscreens either do not block or poorly block UV-A no matter what the SPF may be. Whatever the cause, the expected reduction in skin cancer with sunscreen use has not occurred.  Also see: Melanoma Melodrama

One of the known protectors of skin cells from pre-cancerous changes is vitamin D and your skin actually contains the enzyme that converts sunlight D into active 1,25(OH)2D, calcitriol. For most Americans the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. UV-B, the only band of light producing vitamin D, is significantly present only midday during summer months in most of the U.S., the exact time we are advised to avoid sunlight. UV-B is blocked by sunscreen. We have an international disaster in progress due to a misunderstanding of the nature of and need for UV-B and vitamin D.

A blood test for 25(OH)D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, is the only way to tell if you have or are taking the correct amount of vitamin D, need to take any D or if your sun habits are sufficient. Too little vitamin D contributes to many degenerative diseases but excess vitamin D is equally undesirable. Because of the varied ethnicities, latitudes and lifestyles in the United States (and most of Europe too) the only way to safely use vitamin D is test, test and retest. Click on the Vitamin D Testing link for a relatively inexpensive way to monitor your D.

Low D needs to be corrected, carefully. Moderately high levels of 25(OH)D, greater than 70 ng/ml (175 nmol/l) have been associated with  bone loss, heart disease, and other soft tissue calcification. When chronic intake of excessive amounts of vitamin D raise serum 25(OH)D further irreversible damage may occur. It is likely for most the optimal range of vitamin D is 35-65 ng/ml (88-162 nmol/l). In locations greater than 30? latitude, north or south, values are naturally higher at the end of summer and early fall and lower in winter and spring. There is no evidence values higher than 60 ng/ml provide any added benefit.

TESTING: Reasonably priced testing is available for anyone in the US from the Life Extension Foundation. Click on the little sun to reach the test ordering page.  The test is $47 for LEF members and $63 for non-members. Test results are provided directly to you through the Foundation. Testing sites are easily accessible in most states.

Do not supplement in amounts greater than 800 IU (total from all sources) unless you are being tested and treated by a healthcare professional who understands clearly both the benefits and dangers of vitamin D. Minimum testing should not be less than every four months the first two years and every six months the third and fourth years. Excess intake of vitamin D may not show up in elevated 25(OH)D until as long as 2-3 years after starting a dose seemingly safe initially.

Sunlight is a safe source for most persons in the US with the exception of light skinned persons living in Hawaii, Florida or other locations with elevated levels of UV-B. If you have light skin and live in an area with high UV-B, sunning should be very limited. Combining sunlight and supplements can rapidly overload the D endocrine system in summer months. If you regularly sun in summer and have skin types 1-4 it is unlikely any supplementation is needed during all or most of the year. For dark skins the only US location likely to provide adequate sunlight is Hawaii (this is yet to be determined) and supplements may be a requirement for long term health. As response to supplementation is difficult to gauge testing should be mandatory. The Preliminary Report below and the book explain how to determine your need and how to use supplements and sunlight safely.

 Vitamin D, the kind you make on your skin, get in fortified milk, or take in a vitamin supplement, is not a vitamin. It is more appropriately classified as a pro-hormone. Not only is it a pro-hormone it is a sunlight derived pro-hormone. The active hormone D, calcitriol, controls calcium in vertebrates and invertebrates. Calcium controls innumerable processes in the human body including responses in muscles, bones and glands. Calcitriol is a major player in genomic actions determining how our cells express themselves and regulating production of numerous substances including enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters

 We all need sunlight and/or vitamin D. Clinical studies demonstrate the need for sunlight and vitamin D is genetically variable. At the present time many persons world-wide suffer from D deficiency or insufficiency. Testing is the only way to know how much D you have and testing is the only way to monitor D supplementation. As actions of a pro-hormone are essential to health and life,  'guessing' or 'assuming' is not a wise way to determine optimal levels.

In northern California 80% of clients tested during winter months have serum vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. This problem increases dramatically in persons living at latitudes more distant from the equator and in persons living in all US latitudes with darker skins. In Texas there has been an increase in the number of children with black and Hispanic parents suffering from rickets. Even in sunny southern California vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is prevalent in part due to avoidance of midday sunlight and the use of sunscreens which block vitamin D production .

Getting enough vitamin D, from sunlight or supplements, is important to health and longevity but too much supplemental D or sunlight can be disease producing. Too much, too little- the only way to know how much D you have and how much sunlight or D you need to maintain D sufficiency is to test.

 Every body needs sunlight and vitamin D. Deficiency or insufficiency has been associated with:

  • adrenal insufficiency
  • Alzheimer's
  • allergies
  • autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • cancers of the colon, breast, skin and prostate
  • depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • diabetes, Type 1 and 2
  • gluten intolerance, lectin intolerance
  • heart disease, hypertension, Syndrome X
  • infertility, sexual dysfunction
  • learning and behavior disorders
  • misaligned teeth and cavities
  • myopia


posted by Chris Gupta on Friday December 15 2006
updated on Monday December 18 2006

URL of this article:



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Readers' Comments

Here is an instructive follow up on the vitamin D issue. Char's comment "supplementation of vitamin D at the same level of importance as that of vitamin C" is most appropriate and like vitamin C is only practical as a synthetic source... Although natural sources may not be needed in such large does and  could have other benefits....

Chris Gupta

Hello Chris and Adeha,
I have received a brief reply from my colleague and include it below.  I'd like to add a few thoughts here as well.
While in an ideal world it would be good that everyone could get tested for vitamin D deficiency or overdose, given current circumstances regarding widespread low income levels and lack of medical care among much of the population, I doubt that is a realistic short-term goal at this point in time.
I will maintain that quite significant evidence is emerging that favors safe supplementation of vitamin D3, at least at the 2000 IU level.  There seems to be plentiful literature to support this.  The product is quite inexpensive and could have a major public health impact.  Again, in an ideal world it would be wonderful to ingest cod liver oil as opposed to what Chris has mentioned as a "synthetic" source.  I have several thoughts about that: first, many people cannot afford the expense of cod liver oil; second, many are under time pressure in their lives and would find it more convenient to take it as a pill supplement (likely to contain a synthetic D3); third, levels of cod stocks in the ocean are under depletion pressure, and it is not realistic to think that large numbers of the public can be sustained by cod liver oil for their source of optimum vitamin D levels over the long term.
The benefits to the public sector in decreased respiratory disease incidence alone, would warrant consideration of higher levels of vitamin D supplementation.  It would result in lowering of lost work and school days.  And the overall benefits in good health for low-income infants and children could be astounding over the long term.
In my personal opinion, I now rate supplementation of vitamin D at the same level of importance as that of vitamin C.  I am seeing a better level of protection against life's assaults in my own life, since taking 2000 IU per day.  And I have gotten sun exposure for years since I do organic growing.
Without a doubt continuing research at the molecular level, will continue to provide abundant material for using it in Orthomolecular medicine, to ameliorate a number of disease conditions.
For these reasons I was disappointed to see doubts cast about above-800 IU dosing levels, to a widespread email audience.  While the discussion is important, it deserves more input and clarification, so as not to imply to the readership that there is only one viewpoint on this matter.  There are a number of scientists behind the scenes, that have dedicated themselves to helping prove nutritional approaches to good health, and it seems the current effort surrounding vitamin D is one of the more successful examples of this.
We are all working for the same goal, good health for as many as possible.
With best wishes,
[from my colleague - please note location in southeastern U.S., where there is high sunlight level]:
In the interests of remaining anonymous, I would prefer simply to state that the research is primarily being conducted in the southeastern US, although we do have a multi-site study starting up with one site in NY. When we evaluate deficiency rates, we do so separately for Caucasian, Hispanic, and African-American participants, and power our studies to achieve respectable precision regardless of ethnicity. In our location, the deficiency range is approximately 30% among Caucasians, upwards of 60% among Hispanics, and nearly 90% among African-Americans, averaged over season. We have supplemented in clinical trials with 2000 IU/day, 4000 IU/day, and 6000 IU/day with no indication of toxicity as measured by urinary calcium:creatinine ratio, serum calcium, and so forth.

On Dec 19, 2006, at 10:39 PM, chris gupta wrote:

Hi Adeha, have redirected your note to Char. Chris

On Mon, 18 Dec 2006 22:03:58 -0500 Adeha Feustel wrote:

Hi Chris,

This is a fascinating conversation!

I'd love to know where the researcher who responded to Char is conducting research. I have this theory that the differences are resulting from the latitude people are testing, that is, how much sun their patients are getting. Krispin is getting southern Ca. folks, who may have a lot of sun or protecting themselves from sun. Half of the 2000 patients Mercola had tested in Chicago were deficient, and he himself only ran into overdose problems when he got subtropical sun after high dose cod liver oil. Those two would never be combined in nature. Another critical factor will be what percentage of the people tested are dark skinned?

All the best,

On Dec 18, 2006, at 6:13 PM, chris gupta wrote:

Good to hear from you Char, and thanks for the feedback. Have cc'd to Krispin Sullivan for a response, my own view is that supplementing from a good quality cod liver oil (one's that are not spiked with synthetic vitamins) is unlikely to cause problems. Further given the widespread deficiency it is unlikely one could overdose particularly in Northern winter and especially if one is dark skinned. Although being a fat soluble vitamin at least an occasional test should a good idea.


At 12:41 PM 18/12/2006, cb wrote:
Hi Chris,
Thank you for helping to raise awareness of vitamin D supplementation issues.  I was however concerned about Krispin Sullivan's recommendation that people should not take above 800 IU per day without testing, because I now take 2000 IU per day with no testing.  I made this decision a few months ago, after reviewing some of the literature indicating such a level would be safe.
I personally know someone professionally involved with current vitamin D research, and I forwarded the information from the email about Krispin's info and book to that person, asking for a response.  It is included below.
I also looked at the sample chapter and references from Krispin's upcoming book.  While being unsure when she wrote the book, there were only 2 journal references from 2003 in that sample chapter.  Performing a search at PubMed on just one of the major vitamin D researchers' names (Holick MF), shows that name listed in 16 citations from 2003 alone, and 56 additional cites from 2004 - present.  Indeed, there seems to be research pouring out which indicates widespread benefit and safety at supplementation levels higher than 800 IU.
Further, there is more research coming out showing that AMPs (anti-microbial peptides) are produced in the body once vitamin D has been ingested.  This will be of interest to anyone concerned about the recent emergence of resistant bacteria and viruses.
Best wishes,

Posted by: Chris Gupta on December 29, 2006 10:07 PM


Why Everyone Especially Those With Cancer Should Take Vitamin D

By Dr. Rhett Bergeron, MD.

If you suffer from prostate cancer, your doctor probably has you on a Vitamin D. supplement. That's because we know how good this vitamin is for your prostate and for fighting cancer. Unfortunately, most doctors give their patients the wrong kind of vitamin D. And if you have prostate or any other cancer the difference can be substantial.

In 1998, a group of researchers from Stanford University found that the calcitriol form of vitamin D (this is vitamin D2 the synthetic version) slows the progression of prostate cancer. At the time, everyone thought these were great results. But there were a few problems. First, the supplement didn't stop the cancer's growth. It only slowed it down.And there were side effects. In fact, one participant dropped out of the studybecause of the side effects.

A new study from the University of Toronto shows that using the natural form of vitamin D (this is vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol) does even more to fight the disease. They followed 15 men with biopsyproven prostate cancer for 21 months. All 15 had undergone surgery or radiation. And all 15 also had three progressive increases in PSA levels after their treatment. (PSA is the usual test measurement for prostate cancer.)The researchers gave all the patients 2,000 units of cholecalciferol every day for up to 21 months. In the majority of the participants, their PSA levels stabilized. And in most of the men, the levels actually decreased. This suggests that their prostate cancer either started to regress or stopped progressing. What's more, none of the men had any side effects of any kind.

Better results and no side effects tells me the vitamin D3 is the only way to go. It's possible these men could have had even better results if they had increased their dosage to 4,000 IU. Some doctors think this is too much. But research is showing that almost all of us are very deficient in vitamin D. Some people need to take 5,000 units or more (especially during the winter months when our bodies don't produce as much vitamin D from the sun).

I personally think everyone should have their levels tested using the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. This is the most accurate measure of vitamin D stores in the body. This test easily determines if a patient has a deficiency or excess of vitamin D. Most doctors and labs should be able to perform this test.

Most people need to take vitamin D supplements because so many of us work inside all day. The average level is around 40 ng/mls. Anything less than this level is a sign of deficiency. So take at least 2,000 IU daily to get your levels up. If you're really low (under 20 ng/mls), you will need to double that dose (at least).

You can find vitamin D3 in almost any health food store. Avoid vitamin D2. It's not absorbed well and it can cause side effects.
Rhett bergeron
Covenant Health CLinic

Posted by: Michael Stark on April 19, 2008 09:39 PM


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