Vitamin D – Your level is low, now what?

This is the last of a 4-part series on vitamin D.

Todd Whitthorne (former executive at Cooper Aerobics Enterprises) and I had a chat about vitamin D a while ago. In part 1 we talked about why vitamin D was (and is!) such a hot topic. Todd also told me how we know animals need it too! In part 2 Todd answered the question Do you need to supplement? and how do you know if you’re low?

In part 3 our discussion revolved around the many health implications of vitamin D and in this final video we talked about knowing if you’re low and what to do.Todd Whitthorne pic


To watch the video, scroll to bottom or click here:

Vitamin D video transcript

Neily:We’ve talked about vitamin D—how do you know if you’re low and why it’s important to be above the recommendation (also what are the health implications). So you’re low. What should you do?
Todd:I think the first thing you should do is probably talk to your doctor and if it is really really low they might put you on a prescription vitamin D. It is usually called Drisdol. It will hyper-dose you to get you where you need to be.Vitamin D2 or D3?There is some debate, I know, in the medical and scientific community, synthetic or prescription vitamin D is called D2. That will get you up there in a hurry but it won’t last that long if you go off vitamin D. There are some physicians and some of the researchers that recommend vitamin D3 which is more of a natural vitamin D and that even though it takes a little longer to build, it will stay there and be more bioavailable.

There’s a debate there. I think the main thing is just to get your level to where it needs to be and talk to your physician.

In general there is a rule of thumb that is very, very broad. That 1,000 IU of vitamin D will raise your blood level ten points. So, if you are 10 (ng/mL) and you start taking an extra 1,000 IU per day it will take you to 20. Now that seems to work when you are real low but as you start to get higher it doesn’t work as well. So it is easier to get from 10 to 20 than it is for instance from 40 to 50.

No one-size-fits-all

That being said everything we see at the Cooper Clinic* and everything that I read says one thing—we are all different. There is not a one-size-fits-all prescription or dose for vitamin D. People ask all the time how much should I take.

Our recommendation is a starting point of 2,000 IU. That’s what we have in all our adult formulas of Cooper Complete Multivitamins, but that’s just a starting point. It really depends on where you want to be. I want my level to be higher than 30, I like to be in the 50 – 60 range, so for me I have to take 5,000 (international) units a day.

It’s so SAD

Everyone is different and it really depends. Again, it’s kind of seasonal—vitamin D can be seasonal because obviously there is less sunshine available in most part of the country in the winter than in the summer and you have a different lifestyle. When it’s cold here you wear coats and you don’t go outside very much.  So it really will vary. It is interesting some of the data as it relates to mood and your energy level. You have heard of SAD—the Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What happens, the springtime you go out, you know, you go to the lake, do something outside and you have more energy. You have spring fever, so it is interesting, the body responds beautifully when we treat it the way we were designed and we have been making vitamin D for a couple of million years.

Todd:We need to make sure that we are getting enough whether from the sun or supplements. Just make sure you are taking care of yourself.
Neily:Great. Vitamin D wasn’t even on the radar a number of years ago. Now, it is all we hear about. So, it is great to have some real solid information. Thanks so much. Any take home messages?
Todd:I think, you know, again get it measured. If it’s low, don’t be surprised and get it corrected. Work with someone who knows what they are doing, ideally your physician or health care provider, registered & licensed dietitian, talk to somebody who really knows what they are talking about.Get vitamin D measuredThe research out there is overwhelming. I mean it is everywhere so someone that is not up on vitamin D is not really reading the literature. We do know that it’s something that’s easily correctable and can be incredibly beneficial especially for a lot of people that have aches and pains. It is amazing that when they get the vitamin D they need, they suddenly feel a lot better.
Neily:That’s wonderful. Great information. Thanks so much, Todd. Thanks for watching Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.
 *At the time of this recording Todd Whitthorne was an executive at Cooper Aerobics Enterprises in Dallas, Texas. He is currently President of ACAP Health® also in Dallas.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist I always try to encourage food over supplements. In the case of vitamin D however there are very few food sources so supplementation is generally the way to go. These are some of the best sources.

  • salmon (3oz) = 400 IU
  • fortified milk (8oz) = 120 IU
  • light canned tuna (3oz) 230 IU
  • enriched cereal = ~100 IU

Personally I take about 2,000 to 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to keep my levels at about 50 ng/mL (where my personal physician likes my level to be). The only way to know if you’re low is through a blood test (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin-D is the most common).

Vitamin D3 is a very inexpensive supplement—there is no need to spend more than pennies per 1,000 IU of D3 per day.

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Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach



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