Vitamin D: Do you need to supplement?

Chemical structure of cholecalciferol, aka vit...

Vitamin D – Do you need to supplement?

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Neily:I’m with Todd Whitthorne—a (now former) executive at Cooper Aerobics Enterprises in Dallas. He also oversees the supplement line Cooper Complete. We are outside today appropriately because we are talking about the sunshine vitamin—vitamin D.
Todd:Yes. The vitamin that’s not a vitamin.
Neily:Exactly. And why is that?
Todd:Most vitamins we can’t manufacture; we have to get in supplements or ideally in food, obviously. But vitamin D we can make and we’ve been making it for a long, long time. When that sun hits our skin, beautifully we manufacture vitamin D. We synthesize it in the kidneys and liver and what is interesting is that it’s really not a vitamin. It’s a steroid hormone and it is so important in all aspects of overall health because about 10% of the human genome is regulated by vitamin D. So, it’s just a messenger hormone. It flips on the switch or turns off the switch depending on what’s supposed to happen within the cell and if your bucket is low in vitamin D that’s a problem. And a lot of people have empty buckets.
Neily:I get from my clients how do I know if I need a supplement or not and the answer is…
Todd:There’s only one answer and that’s to get a blood test because you can never ever guess what your vitamin D level is. You have to ask your doctor. Sometimes doctors will do it; now more and more routinely doctors will automatically measure it. But not all doctors are created equal so you have to ask. The test is called 25 hydroxy-vitamin D but just ask your doctor for a vitamin D test; he’ll know what you’re talking about and get it measured.
Todd:The data is really fascinating. We know at the Cooper Clinic where we see about 7,000 patients a year that 82% of our first time patients are lower than we would like them to be in vitamin D. The cut point—the bare bones cut point for vitamin D is 30 nanograms per milliliter and the research indicates nationally in NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 77% of American adolescents and adults are low in vitamin D. That means they’re below 30, sometimes below 20 and even in the single digits. So don’t be surprised if you’re tested and it’s really really low. But it’s not where you want to be. You absolutely want to get your blood level vitamin D up to at least 30. You can do it from the sun or from supplements as you certainly know. And the great thing about vitamin D supplements is they are cheap. They are not expensive.
Neily:Right. So, the bottom line is the only way to know is by getting a blood test from your physician.
Neily:Great take-home message. Thanks Todd. Thank you for watching Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.

Disclosure: I was employed at Cooper Clinic from 2004 – 2009 but have no financial affiliation.

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Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND



  1. Vitamin D - Your level is low, now what? Part 4 of 4 with Todd Whitthorne - Neily on Nutrition - Jennifer Neily - Dallas Registered Dietitian Nutritionist - […] hot topic. Todd also told me how we know animals need it too! In part 2 Todd answered the…

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