High doses of vitamin D supplement can SPEED UP a loss of bone density.

A lot of media attention has been given to vitamin D and its importance as a nutrient. Vitamin D plays many diverse roles in the human body that are essential for health such as bone mineralization, muscle health, immune regulation, hormone balance, mood regulation, cognitive function, blood sugar regulation, cancer prevention and much more. Deficiency in vitamin D can lead to impaired functions in these body systems, which can present as serious health issues, as well as diseases.

Vitamin D is commonly deficient in Australians and while some people may have blood test levels that show they are not clinically deficient based on the reference range; they often don’t have “optimal” amounts.

The reason for such widespread deficiency in a country with a lot of sun is likely due to increased sun awareness (e.g. slip, slop, slap – sunscreen blocks vitamin D production in the skin), increased time indoors, decreased intake via the diet and poor absorption.

Because of increased deficiency rates and media attention around vitamin D’s importance, it has led to an increase of people supplementing with vitamin D, sometimes at very high doses (e.g. 10,000 IU and above per day) because the more the better right? Well, not exactly.

Too much of a good thing in the body is detrimental, which is why long term, high dose supplementation of vitamin D may speed up bone loss. People who are commonly deficient and therefore supplement with vitamin D, is post-menopausal females and the elderly, who are doing this to try to prevent bone mineral loss and osteoporosis. At safe doses, there is a lot of evidence to say that vitamin D supplementation decreases the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly as well as decreases the risk of osteoporosis. It can also decrease the risk of cancer and immune issues. 

Therefore, when you factor in the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, the myriad of other health benefits of vitamin D and its low cost, it is recommended that vitamin D supplementation is a safe and intelligent choice, however it must be done in the correct doses!

While vitamin D supplementation at the correct and safe dosage can be helpful, it is always still important to try and obtain nutrients as naturally as possible. In the case of vitamin D, this is not only from food but also from the sun.

Obtaining vitamin D from the sun has far reaching health benefits to both our physical and mental health that goes far beyond vitamin D. We know that if people are getting more sun exposure, they are outdoors and more likely to be doing something active, getting in nature and having fun. These things are important for our health and it is probably why safe sun exposure (i.e. getting adequate amounts and knowing when to cover up/find shade) is associated with an overall decreased risk of disease and death.

Vitamin D is also found in high amounts in eggs, dairy, fish, seafood and liver. These foods not only contain vitamin D but they also contain other nutrients that are essential to good health. They are extremely nutrient dense foods and should be part of a balanced, whole-food diet. Because the vitamin D is found in high amounts in animal-based foods, vegans can be at risk of deficiency.

In conclusion, if you are deficient in vitamin D based on a blood test or you are at risk of deficiency, try your best to obtain as much vitamin D as possible from your food and the sun. Supplemental doses between 1-4,000 IU is safe and you would want to go on the upper end of that if you are ageing, stay indoors a lot, post-menopausal or dress in a modest way due to religious reasons (e.g. Muslims and Jews). Bone mineral density peaks between 87-125 of vitamin D levels on a blood test. Aim for this range. Not higher or lower. Get frequent blood tests to check up on your levels.