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Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2012 Feb;38(1):141-60. doi: 10.1016/j.rdc.2012.03.013. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Vitamin D: extraskeletal health.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Vitamin D deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and likely the most common medical condition in the world. There is a multitude of causes of vitamin D deficiency, but the major cause has been the lack of appreciation that the body requires 5- to 10-fold higher intakes than is currently recommended by the Institute of Medicine and other health agencies. It is likely that our hunter gatherer fore-fathers being exposed to sunlight on a daily basis were making several thousand IU of vitamin D a day. The fact that 100 IU of vitamin D prevented overt signs of rickets led to the false security that ingesting twice this amount was more than adequate to satisfy the body’s vitamin D requirement. Although this may be true for preventing overt skeletal deformities associated with rickets, there is now overwhelming and compelling scientific and epidemiologic data suggesting that the human body requires a blood level of 25(OH)D above 30 ng/mL for maximum health. The likely reason is that essentially every tissue and cell in the body has a VDR and thus, to have enough vitamin D to satisfy all of these cellular requirements, the blood level of 25(OH)D needs to be above 30 ng/mL. It has been estimated that for every 100 IU of vitamin D ingested that the blood level of 25(OH)D increases by 1 ng/mL. Thus to theoretically achieve a blood level above 30 ng/mL requires the ingestion of 3000 IU of vitamin D a day. There is evidence, however, that when the blood levels of 25(OH)D are less than 15 ng/mL, the body is able to more efficiently use vitamin D to raise the blood level to about 20 ng/mL. To raise the blood level of 25(OH)D above 20 ng/mL requires the ingestion of 100 IU of vitamin D for every 1-ng increase; therefore to increase the blood level to the minimum 30 ng/mL requires the ingestion of at least 1000 IU of vitamin D a day for adults. There is a great need to significantly increase the recommended adequate intakes of vitamin D. All neonates during the first year of life should take at least 400 IU/d of vitamin D, and increasing it to 1000 IU/d may provide additional health benefits. Children 1 year and older should take at least 400 IU/d of vitamin D as recently recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but they should consider increasing intake up to 2000 IU/d derive maximum health benefits from vitamin D. Prepubertal and teenage girls who received 2000 IU of vitamin D per day for a year showed improvement in their musculoskeletal health with no untoward toxicity. All adults should be taking 2000 IU of vitamin D per day. A recent study reported that adults who took 50,000 IU of vitamin D once every 2 weeks, which is equivalent to taking 3000 IU of vitamin D a day, for up to 6 years was effective in maintaining blood levels of 25(OH)D of between 40 and 60 ng/mL without any toxicity. There is no downside to increasing either a child’s or adult’s vitamin D intake, with the exception of acquired disorders such as granulomatous diseases including sarcoidosis and tuberculosis, as well as some lymphomas with activated macrophages that produce 1,25(OH)2D3 in an unregulated fashion.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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