The Fallacy of Vitamin D

Natural News are flogging vitamin pills again.

The thing is vitamin pills are flogged as a cure all. We are told we need them by the “medical establishment” and indeed our parents but most of us know so little about them that we simply believe a lot of the ideas that are flogged by people such as mike adams. Most of our Vitamin D is produced during exposure to UV light, any UV light. Sunlight is great for it. It’s cholecalciferol and is a steroid hormone that is needed for the building of bones and sequestration of calcium.

You don’t need to take supplementation for it, you need to make sure that you go out regularly. Even bedridden patients are encouraged to go out for a while every day solely for this purpose. The only real way these days for the vast majority of us to get Vitamin D deficiency is by sitting indoors all day. Spend time outside, it’s free.

The people who have trouble getting vitamin D are people with dark skin, muslim women, shut ins and people in some latitudes where the sun doesn’t rise for months. Even then the problem is solved by spending more time in the sun, stopping the practice of burkha. The few people who need supplementation are people who have issues with this rather than the universal pill that it is flogged at.

Vitamin D is found mainly in animal sources such as fish liver and meat and egg yolk. Some mushrooms contain it but not in the quantities needed.

Just remember, even supplement companies are out for your coin.


  1. LadyAtheist says

    "The people who have trouble getting vitamin D are people with dark skin, muslim women, shut ins and people in some latitudes where the sun doesn't rise for months"

    …and WoW gamers

  2. Dunc says

    And people living in Scotland.

    We have the lowest vitamin D levels in the world, and the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. There have been repeated calls to consider supplementing vitamin D in common foods in Scotland, because the problem is so dire. Not only are we at high latitude, we have extended periods of very heavy cloud cover, and a diet which is very poor in sources of vitamin D.

    What is this “sunlight” you speak of? Spend time outside here, all you’re likely to get is wet…

  3. says

    There was a study in the US a few years ago, which showed that most Americans have “medically significant” low levels of Vitamin D. There were a number of reasons: people drinking less milk (which in the US is typically fortified), people staying indoors with their gadgets and internet connections, and people using high SPF sunscreen when they do go outdoors.

    My GP, who is the kind of trend skeptic one would hope for in a doctor, conducted his own investigation: patients (like me) who came in for blood work of any kind also got a test to measure Vitamin D levels. Those who were deficient — and there were a lot of us, this being Seattle and all — were recommended to take a 1000 IU supplement. There were so many, in fact, that he now routinely screens new patients for this.

  4. Sercee says

    Here in mid-north Canada we get plenty of sun during the summer – if you’re like me and go outside as much as possible. However, starting about a week ago if you work a day job like I do you will only see daylight at lunch (if you have a reasonable lunch break) and on the weekends. I don’t know if that’s sufficient, but anyone who likes the outdoors less than I probably has trouble for at least half the year in my part of the world.

  5. Dunc says

    Sercee – at those latitudes, the UVB levels are so low (because of the oblique angle of the sun) that you’re not going to produce much in the way of vitamin D even at midday. There’s also the fact that you’re probably not going to be showing much exposed skin either.

  6. scimaths says

    A report has just come out in the UK saying that rickets is on the rise again. This has been an ongoing problem in non-white communities for a long time. This is from 1976

    Vitamin D deficiency is not a fallacy, it is a reality with many public health issues, not just rickets. This does not go away just because some natural health website peddles vitamin pills for all else.

  7. Sercee says

    Dunc, you’re right. I forgot about the winter clothes part. We’re having an unusually pleasant fall so I haven’t started to bundle up yet (we are expecting our first snow on Sunday, though! Late…). So yeah, here in Canadaland it is prudent to either make sure we’re getting enough Vitamin D (and calcium) in our food or find a quality supplement. I don’t take many supplements, but those two are in my routine. Sadly, I have no idea how to tell if it’s a quality supplement or not.

  8. magistramarla says

    Just a quick note. Some of us who have auto-immune issues have problems absorbing vitamin D.
    I live in South Texas, so I get out in the sun very often, and in fact can’t help but get a lot of sun.
    My vitamin D levels still sink if I don’t take a daily supplement.
    Also, there are many auto-immune patients, such as those with Lupus, who actually get extremely ill from even a short exposure to the sun.
    For some of us, those supplements are really important.

  9. jd142 says

    Interesting post as I was recently diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency. I had numbness and pain in my feet that spread up my legs until I was numb from about the bottom of my ribs down. I could still feel when the Doctor tapped the soles of my feet with a pin, but it was felt like when your arm or leg go to sleep. And sometimes a little touch hurt. Plus there were all sorts of associated problems with the numbness. She was actually the second doctor I saw about it and she actually listened to my symptoms. She did a complete blood workup and found that my vitamin D level was about 12, when it should have been 25 or better.

    An 8 week course of prescription vitamin D during July and August did away with the worst symptoms, although I am still a little numb in my midsection. I’ve been taking about 300% RDA of vitamin D on my own and can’t wait for the last bit of numbness to go away.

    At my followup next month we’ll see if there is an underlying cause. Yeah, obese, yeah work an office job, yeah slightly. But during the summer I was outside for a walk over lunch an average of 30 minutes 4 times a week. Granted I was in a long sleeve shirt, so just my face was exposed, but still. Plus mowing the law takes 45 minutes every two weeks, and in a short sleeve shirt. And no suntan lotion either.

    My psychiatrist said it could even affect my mood. Although my mood has been worse since September, so we’ll talk about that. My psychiatrist is from Israel and said she had never seen anyone with vitamin D deficiency until she moved to Iowa, and now she sees it frequently.

    I have a Norwegian ancestry; I was told that can be a contributing factor. I also really don’t like the taste of milk, so I miss out on the biggest “natural” source of vitamin D. Natural in quotes because it has to be added and isn’t a natural part of the milk. It was surprising, once I started looking, how many things that said they were “vitamin and mineral enriched” did not include vitamin D in the list.

    I am still concerned that the sun exposure I had wasn’t enough and that I’m still numb.

    And I do still agree with those people who say that if you are otherwise healthy, vitamin supplements are not going to make you live to 150 or keep you from getting dementia. The key is “otherwise healthy.” I obviously wasn’t. :)

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Certain medications, including some of those for asthma, contribute to osteoporosis and necessitate dietary supplements of both calcium and Vitamin D, even in the sunny climate of Florida – or so my doctor tells me.

    For all the wonders of modern medicine, Wired‘s corollary to Clarke’s Law bears repeating:

    Any technology which can be distinguished from magic is not sufficiently advanced.

  11. Ysanne says

    The people who have trouble getting vitamin D are people with dark skin, muslim women, shut ins and people in some latitudes where the sun doesn’t rise for months.

    And places like Australia, where the “go out for one minute at sunset without SPF 50+ and you’ll die of skin cancer tomorrow” panic is turned up to eleven. Because what applies to glow-in-the-dark white-skinned freckly red-haired people whose ancestors hail from northern Britain is obviously what’s best for everybody else too.

  12. says

    While, yes, the supplement companies are out to make a profit, previous commenters also make some very good points about vitamin D deficiency. The people who fall into the categories that would not let them get enough sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D are a large number of people. I think good advice would be to seek medical advice before starting on a vitamin regimen, to see if you really are deficient in a certain thing. (At my previous job, if someone asked us about a particular vitamin, the HCP would ask if the doctor had recommended it. Because you have to be careful, especially with vitamins ADEK, because they are fat-soluble and can accumulate.) And of course, be wary of people who treat vitamins as a cure-all.

  13. Pen says

    You know this is one reason there’s conflict between the public and the medical profession, which I know you’ve touched on in other posts. My kid’s doc told me to give her vitamin D, on a free prescription, no less, and when I said she got plenty of time outdoors she called me a bad parent for endangering my child with solar exposure. We’re talking an olive-skinned child in balmy southern France btw. So I ‘did my own research’TM and came to the conclusion that the doc, years of medical school notwithstanding, is plain old wrong. Although we might agree on this particular conclusion, the methods by which I reached mine don’t seem to find much favour with you in general.

  14. tyrion says

    At least vitamin D deficiency is straightforward – there’s a simple test, and if your levels are low, then supplement, if they’re OK, don’t bother. I live in Australia, I’m very fair skinned so stay out of the sun. Without supplements my levels hover around 14-20. So yes, I take a supplement. Taking vitamin D isn’t woo, it’s medicine. I’d love to spend all summer outside in a bikini but the immediate (endless sunburn) and long term (melanoma) risks just aren’t worth it.

    Bottom line – if you want to be sure, get a blood test.

  15. says

    Tyrion makes the point that I wish I had: deficiencies are very easy to diagnose with simple blood tests, and there are very legitimate reasons to take supplements.

    The issue is, though, that quacks and charlatans peddle vitamins as a panacea. If you are not deficient, then taking extra vitamins will offer no benefit and, if you are lucky, do no harm worse than drain your wallet. If you are not sure if you need supplements or not, get tested.

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