Fred Liers PhD megavitamin myth busting orthomolecular vitamins andrew saul omnsAs the year draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the past year, as well as to look forward to the New Year with respect to one’s health goals. This includes assessing your nutritional supplement regimen. There is more confusion about nutritional supplements than ever. With this in mind, we present “Megavitamin Myth-Busting” from Andrew W. Saul, PhD and Helen Saul Case from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service to clear confusion about vitamins and other nutritional supplements, and set the record straight. Enjoy! ~


Commentary by Andrew W. Saul and Helen Saul Case

(Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Dec 23, 2019)

People are so confused about endless internet vitamin legends. Now it’s time to be blunt and set the record straight.

The media says that taking vitamins will kill me. Is that so? NO.


It’s been said that the FDA does not regulate nutritional supplements. Is that true? NO. “FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients.” [U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ ]


I have heard that “vitamin supplements are useless” and that “supplements do not prevent or cure disease, and they do not help you live longer.” Is that accurate? NO.


I get enough vitamins from my diet. NO, you don’t.


Aren’t foods a more economical vitamin source than supplements? NO.


Should I really stop all vitamin supplements for a week (or more) prior to surgery? NO.


Do I need special vitamin preparations for my body to absorb them? NO. With vitamins, there is usually no absorption issue. All animals need and absorb nutrients, including vitamins. If they didn’t, they’d be long extinct. The surface area of your small intestine, if all the nooks and crannies were flatted out, would be half the size of a regulation basketball court. There is ample opportunity for nutrient absorption.


Doesn’t taking vitamins just make expensive urine? NO.




Does vitamin C causes kidney stones? NO.


Does vitamin C interfere with chemotherapy? NO, vitamin C actually enhances chemotherapy.
http://www.doctoryourself.com/Cancer_Why_IV_C.html and


I have heard that ascorbic acid is not really vitamin C. Is that true? NO.
http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n27.shtml and


Will vitamin C from a genetically modified (GMO) source hurt me? NO.


Does the acidity of ascorbic acid vitamin C destroy probiotics? NO.


If I take too much vitamin C during pregnancy, will it cause a miscarriage? NO, vitamin C is highly protective of your developing baby.


Does taking too much vitamin C during pregnancy causes infantile rebound scurvy? NO.


Is liposomal vitamin C as good as intravenous vitamin C? NO.


Will I get to much sodium from taking sodium ascorbate vitamin C? NO, says cardiologist Thomas Levy, MD, JD.


Does G6PD mean no supplemental vitamin C? NO. The Riordan Clinic has administered 15,000 mg vitamin C by IV to G6PD patients without harm.


But since Linus Pauling died from cancer, didn’t he fail to benefit from all the vitamin C he took? NO.




Some persons have a genetic trait that makes it more difficult for them to convert dietary carotene into active vitamin A. Does this mean they must take preformed oil retinol A? NO. Even a poor converter can still make sufficient vitamin A from carotene if they eat lots of fruits and vegetables . . . which we should all be doing anyway.


Does beta carotene cause cancer? NO. (But cigarettes do.)
http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n09.shtml and




Does niacin hurt the liver? NO.
http://www.doctoryourself.com/news/v4n21.html and


Is niacin clinically incompatible for people with methylation issues? NO. Theoretically, perhaps. But Dr. Abram Hoffer, the world’s most experienced niacin physician, has said it is not clinically significant.


Aren’t B-vitamins so poorly absorbed that they need to be methylated? NO. Comparing their molecular weights with the simplest of all sugars, we find:

Glucose (C6H12O6) weighs 180 grams/mole
Niacin (C6H5NO2) weighs 123 g/mol
Pyridoxine 169 g/mol
Pantothenic acid 219 g/mol
Biotin 244 g/mol
Thiamin 265 g/mol
Riboflavin 376 g/mol
Folic acid or folate 441 [Methylated may be better. However: 1) See: Bailey LB. Dietary reference intakes for folate: the debut of dietary folate equivalents. Nutr Rev. 1998;56(10):294-299. And 2) The Linus Pauling Institute says: “Unmetabolized folic acid concentrations returned to baseline levels at the end of the study, suggesting that adaptive mechanisms eventually converted folic acid to reduced forms of folate.”
Cobalamin 1,355 g/mol [methylated is probably better in this case]




I get plenty of magnesium in my diet! NO, you probably don’t.
http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v13n22.shtml and




Is vitamin E dangerous? NO. The safety record of all forms of vitamin E is exceptionally good.




Do I need to consume vitamin K-2 because K-1 in foods is ineffective? NO. Your body will make the conversion for you. John Cannell, MD, writes that the conversion “occurs through an intermediary molecule, vitamin K3, which is made in the intestine from vitamin K1. [Hirota Y, et al. J Biol Chem. 2013 Sep 30.] “[M]odern humans are deficient in K2 because they do not eat large quantities of vitamin K1 containing foods. If we look at Paleolithic humans, they probably got high amount of vitamin K2 from eating large quantities of kale and spinach-like foods, very high in K1, which then supplied their tissues with all the vitamin K2 they needed. [A]s far as getting enough vitamin K2, the best thing to do is eat your greens.”


I drink milk, and I spend time in the sunshine. Don’t I get plenty of vitamin D? NO. If your shadow is longer than you are, you are not making vitamin D from sunlight, says William Grant, PhD. Thus, little vitamin D is made by your body in the six colder months of the year. This is also true in the summer months if only exposed to sun mornings and afternoons.




(Andrew W. Saul, OMNS founder and Editor-in-Chief, has coauthored four books with Abram Hoffer, MD, and is editor of the textbook The Orthomolecular Treatment of Chronic Disease. OMNS Assistant Editor Helen Saul Case is the author of The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems, Vitamins & Pregnancy: The Real Story, and Orthomolecular Nutrition for Everyone.)


Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine

Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information: http://www.orthomolecular.org

The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

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Dr. Hank Liers, PhD vitamin D3 Plus question answer

I often receive questions about various HPDI products. This month, I want to answer a question I got about our Vitamin D3 PLUS supplement.

It is my hope that periodic answers to your questions may help others when making choices regarding nutritional supplements. HPDI always strives to formulate the highest purity and highest quality supplements available. Please read about our four-pillar Approach to Formulation.


QUESTION: I see the source of the Vitamin D3 and Vitamin A in the product is fish liver oil. Are there any test results available for mercury or other heavy metals?

HANK: I am always careful when formulating any product to minimize any potential toxins. Vitamin D3 and Vitamin A from fish liver oils, as are found in the HPDI Vitamin D3 Plus formula, are highly concentrated sources which means that only milligram amounts are needed. That by itself means there would be very low levels of toxins.

This fact is verified by independent testing that shows mercury levels of less than 0.003 ppm, lead levels of less than 0.005 ppm, cadmium levels of less than 0.002 ppm, and arsenic levels of less than 0.004 ppm. “Less than” means the amounts are below the detection limits! Very low levels, indeed. View the test results below.

Test Results:

1. Test results for Cadmium, Mercury & Lead: https://www.integratedhealth.com/downloads/d3Test1.pdf

2. Test results for Inorganic Arsenic: https://www.integratedhealth.com/downloads/d3Test2.pdf


vitamin d3 plus

The fish liver oils in Vitamin D3 Plus are exceptionally high in purity.


Vitamin D3 PLUS is formulated as an advanced Vitamin D3 formula. It incorporates various cutting-edge design features and offers many benefits. Here are some relevant facts about HPDI’s Vitamin D3 PLUS:

• The formula provides Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) from highly purified fish liver oil. We avoid the use of Vitamin D2 because of a greater potential for toxicity, poorer absorption, and reduced effectiveness. Furthermore, we prefer Vitamin D3 in a softgel form. In softgels, the oil is incorporated without using other ingredients (like corn starch) used for microencapsulation to make Vitamin D into a powder that is then put into a capsule. HPDI avoids using fillers and excipients in products whenever possible. (See A Pure Approach to Formulation for our four pillar system of supplement design).

• Vitamin D research during the last 10 years shows an optimal amount of supplemental Vitamin D for most people of about 5,000 IU. This is what is generally needed to get blood levels of Vitamin D to the level of 50–80 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).

• Non-GMO sunflower lecithin acts as an emulsifier of Vitamin D and ensures effective absorption of the Vitamin D in Vitamin D3 PLUS. In addition, the use of rice bran oil further supports absorption of fat-soluble Vitamin D. Optimizing absorption of Vitamin D is critical especially in cases of Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease (gluten intolerance), and irritable bowel syndrome.

• Because the oils involved are susceptible to oxidation, we include Oryza rice bran oil in Vitamin D3 PLUS. Oryza rice bran oil contains significant amounts of Vitamin E (in the form of mixed tocotrienols and tocopherols) that prevents oxidation.

• Vitamin D3 is combined with Vitamin A because they act synergistically. It is known that high dose Vitamin A without Vitamin D can cause bone loss. However, there is no observed bone loss when adequate Vitamin D (more than 2,000 IU daily) is taken together with Vitamin A. Chris Masterjohn eloquently discusses this topic in his seminal article “Vitamin A on Trial: Does Vitamin A Cause Osteoporosis” (see Weston A. Price Foundation website). Also, Masterjohn states that Vitamin A taken in conjunction with Vitamin D is necessary for proper bone remodeling. We include 1,000 IU of Vitamin A along with Vitamin D3 in Vitamin D3 PLUS.

• Vitamin K2 (especially as Menaquinone-7) is necessary for the proper activation of bone matrix proteins by conferring upon them the physical ability to bind calcium. Chris Masterjohn has beautifully discussed this issue in his paper “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two–Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved” (see Weston A. Price Foundation website). Because Vitamin K2 is needed to facilitate the function of Vitamin D in proper bone formation (including teeth), Masterjohn states that Vitamin D toxicity is most likely a case of Vitamin K2 deficiency.

• In their book Health Benefits of Vitamin K-2, Larry M. Howard and Anthony G. Payne assert that as little as six mcg of Vitamin K2 (as MK-7) can be beneficial to the body. We therefore include 10 mcg of MK-7 per softgel in Vitamin D3 PLUS. In addition, research has shown that Vitamin K2 can help remove calcium from soft tissues in the body and instead put the calcium into bony structures. Vitamin K2 is found naturally in fermented foods such as cheeses, sauerkraut, dairy products, natto (i.e., a traditional Japanese dish of fermented soybeans), and in dairy products, eggs, and certain meats.

• In light of recent research on Vitamin D, we recommend most people take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily (unless there is some constraining lifestyle factor or compelling medical reason). Due to its long half-life (about 30 days) in the body, Vitamin D3 PLUS can be taken effectively in smaller doses if needed (e.g., 5,000 IU taken fewer times per week). For example, taking one capsule once per week would give a daily equivalent dose of about 714 IU (i.e., 5,000 IU divided by seven days).

• Other nutrients ideally taken with Vitamin D3 in order to achieve maximum benefit include magnesium, calcium, zinc, and boron. These additional nutrients are included in HPDI’s foundational supplements and bone formulas (Bone Jour!, Bone Guardian, and Cal/Mag Plus).

vitamin d3 plus purity quality

Testing helps ensure the purity and effectiveness of HPDI products.


• A human being optimally produces 10,000–20,000 IU of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) when exposed to full sunlight on a significant portion of skin for about 30 minutes.

• The body only starts to get the full benefits of Vitamin D3 after it has produced or taken orally about 5,000 IU daily.

• In this world of sun avoidance, sun blocks, working indoors, latitudinal effects, etc. a majority of the population suffers in multiple ways from deficiency (or less than optimal levels) of Vitamin D3.

• Vitamin D3 is actually a steroid hormone with very powerful effects and, with few exceptions, cannot be obtained in sufficient amounts from your diet.


We at HPDI welcome questions about our products. Please use our contact webform or email your questions to: support(at)integratedhealth.com.



Dr. Hank Liers, PhD dietary supplementFred Liers PhD dietary supplement dshea

In February 2015, the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (OMNS) published an article reviewing the major scientific research studies on Vitamin D for the year 2014.

As noted by the author William B. Grant, PhD, “research into the health effects associated with vitamin D continued to be strong in 2014. The number of publications with vitamin D in the title or abstract listed at pubmed.gov increased from 3,119 in 2011 to 3,919 in 2014.”

Seven top vitamin D researchers selected the 20 papers they regard as making the greatest contribution to understanding the health effects of vitamin D for the year. Here we publish the article with permission. ~


by William B. Grant, PhD

(OMNS Feb 3, 2015) Higher vitamin D blood levels may reduce the risk of many types of disease including autoimmune diseases, cancers, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes mellitus, and falls and fractures.

Research into the health effects associated with vitamin D continued to be strong in 2014. The number of publications with vitamin D in the title or abstract listed at pubmed.gov increased from 3,119 in 2011 to 3,919 in 2014. Seven vitamin D researchers (listed after this report) worked together to pick the 20 papers in 2014 that made the most contribution to understanding the health effects of vitamin D in 2014.

sunset at beach vitamin d research

Sunshine plays a major role in vitamin D production but foods/supplements can support optimal levels.

Papers are not in priority order, but instead grouped by type of study. For the purpose of this article “vitamin D” in the blood is a measurement of 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D.

Do randomized controlled trials work for vitamin D?

No one refutes the fact that vitamin D is beneficial to the skeletal system. There are many studies (randomized controlled trials [RCT] and also epidemiological) that support this hypothesis. What is at odds is whether or not vitamin D is beneficial to the non-skeletal system. There are many observational (epidemiological, or association) studies that show vitamin D is beneficial, and many RCTs that show it isn’t. Does that mean that vitamin D does not aid in disease prevention? Or does it mean that the RCT model does not work for nutrients?


Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [Martineau, 2014]

A vitamin D trial in the UK in which patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were given 120,000 IU vitamin D3 every two months for a year found that vitamin D3 supplementation was protective against moderate or severe exacerbation in those with baseline 25(OH)D concentrations < 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) but not for those with concentrations > 50 nmol/L. Vitamin D3 supplementation had no effect on upper respiratory infections. This is consistent with previous RCTs that used high doses at infrequent intervals, every 2 months in this case; however other trials that used an adequate dose given daily have shown reduction in upper respiratory tract infections.

Vitamin D promotes vascular regeneration [Wong, 2014]

This study demonstrated that vitamin D improved cardiovascular disease. The German team investigated this effect several ways. They showed that supplementation with 4000 IU/day of vitamin D3 increased the number of circulating angiogenic myeloid cells, which promote growth and vascular regeneration necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system. A similar result was found in a mouse model, which also demonstrated restoration of impaired angiogenesis (new vessel formation) function. They also examined the mechanisms by which vitamin D acted.

Vitamin D and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws. [Spedding, 2014]

This paper reported on a statistical average of many studies of vitamin D RCTs without methodological flaws and found that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a statistically significant improvement in clinical depression. However, the same analysis of vitamin D RCTs with methodological flaws found a statistically significant worsening of depression. The major flaws identified included not increasing 25(OH)D concentrations and not measuring baseline or final 25(OH)D concentrations. Vitamin D supplementation of > 800 IU/d was somewhat favorable in the management of depression.

Effect of vitamin D supplementation on antibiotic use: a randomized controlled trial. [Tran, 2014]

A post hoc (conducted after the study was completed) analysis of a vitamin D RCT involving 644 Australian residents aged 60-84 years found a significant reduction in prescribed antibiotics if they were over the age of 70 years and taking 60,000 IU of vitamin D3 monthly compared with the placebo groups. The effect was not significant for those < 70 years of age. This study suggests that taking an average of 2000 IU/day vitamin D3 reduces the risk of infections, most likely respiratory infections, in older adults.


Observational studies provide some of the strongest evidence to date for beneficial health outcomes related to vitamin D. Observational studies measure vitamin D status and health outcomes for every participant. Blood samples are taken at the time of enrollment and people are followed for several years. Vitamin D is said to be effective if positive health outcomes result.

Vitamin D and risk of cause specific death: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort and randomised intervention studies [Chowdhury, 2014]

This paper was a review of observational and RCT studies that showed a correlation between vitamin D and specific mortality outcomes. One conclusion was that supplementation with vitamin D3 significantly reduces overall mortality among older adults. They used data from 73 cohort studies (849,412 participants) and 22 RCTs (30,716 participants). In the RCTs, all cause mortality rate was reduced by 11% for vitamin D3 supplementation but increased by 4% for vitamin D2 supplementation. In addition, their meta-analysis of cancer-specific incidence and mortality rates comparing those who started in the lowest third of vitamin D blood concentrations against those in the highest third suggests that vitamin D may have a much stronger impact on survival after developing cancer than on reducing the risk of developing cancer to start with.

Meta-analysis of all-cause mortality according to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [Garland, 2014]

An analysis of 32 observational studies found that as 25(OH)D concentrations increased from 13 nmol/L (5 ng/ml) to 90 nmol/L (36 ng/ml) there is a linear reduction in all-cause mortality. At concentrations greater than 90 nmol/L (36 ng/ml), no further improvement was observed. This finding is important in that it did not find any evidence for a U-shaped relationship showing higher risk for both low and high 25(OH)D concentrations as has been reported in some studies. Furthermore, the risk for all-cause mortality rate for those with 25(OH)D concentration < 25 nmol/L (10 ng/mL) was 1.9 compared to that for those with concentrations > 100 nmol/L (40 ng/mL).

Low vitamin D level is an independent predictor of poor outcomes in Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea [Wang, 2014]

A study in New York found that 25(OH)D concentration and age were the only independent predictors of response to the highly fatal Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD). Subjects with 25(OH)D concentration < 53 nmol/L (21 ng/mL) were 4.75 times more likely to fail to resolve CDAD after 30 days than subjects with 25(OH)D concentrations > 75 nmol/L (30 ng/mL). This is an important finding since CDAD rates are increasing due to antibiotic resistant strains of CD.

Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the MISS cohort [Lindqvist, 2014]

An observational study in Sweden involving 29,518 women followed for up to 20 years with 2,545 reported deaths found that the mortality rate for those who avoided sun exposure was approximately twice as high as those who were most exposed to the sun. This difference explained 3% of all deaths and is important since UVB doses in Sweden are generally low and virtually absent for six months of the year. Production of vitamin D may explain most of the differences between sun exposure amounts, although other beneficial effects of solar UV exist, such as release of nitric oxide resulting in reduction of blood pressure, as well as vitamin D-independent effects on the immune system.

25-Hydroxyvitamin D in the range of 20 to 100 ng/ml and incidence of kidney stones [Nguyen, 2014]

GrassrootsHealth (510c3) initiated a voluntary reporting project called D*action. There are over 7,000 in the cohort, of which 2,012 have reported their data for a median of 19 months. In this cohort, there has been no evidence of an association of 25(OH)D and kidney stones. What was a risk factor for kidney stones in this study was high body mass index. This study counters the Women’s Health Initiative study that reported an elevated risk of kidney stones for women taking 400 IU/d vitamin D3 and 1500 mg/d calcium.

Prediagnostic circulating vitamin D levels and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in European populations: a nested case-control study [Fedirko, 2014]

An observational study involving 520,000 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort, of which 138 developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer, found that higher levels of 25(OH)D reduced incidence of HCC. Each 10 nmol/L (4 ng/mL) increase in 25(OH)D concentration was associated with a 20% average decrease in risk of HCC. The large number of participants in the study with a very small number of cases indicates the difficulty of demonstrating the beneficial effect of vitamin D for the rare cancers. The authors noted that the result did “not change after adjustment for biomarkers of preexisting liver damage, nor chronic infection with hepatitis B or C viruses.”

Plasma vitamin D concentration influences survival outcome after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer [Zgaga, 2014]

A study in Ireland and Scotland involving 1,598 patients with stage I to III colorectal cancer, found that 25(OH)D concentrations (measured approximately 15 weeks after diagnosis of colorectal cancer) were associated with survival rates. Those in the highest third of 25(OH)D concentrations with a median concentration of 51 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) compared to the lowest third with a median concentration of 10 nmol/L (4 ng/mL) had a 32% lower risk of cancer-specific mortality rate and a 30% lower risk of all-cause mortality rate over a ten-year follow-up period. This study provides support for the idea that people diagnosed with cancer should raise their 25(OH)D concentration to above a minimum of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL),

Meta-analysis of vitamin D sufficiency for improving survival of patients with breast cancer [Mohr, 2014]

Two meta-analyses found significantly increased cancer survival rates with higher concentration of 25(OH)D at time of diagnosis. For breast cancer, results from five studies found that those with 25(OH)D concentration of 75 nmol/L (30 ng/mL) had half the 5-20 year mortality rate as those with a lower concentration of 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL).

Could vitamin D sufficiency improve the survival of colorectal cancer patients? [Mohr, 2014]

In this meta-analysis for colorectal cancer, results from four studies found that those with 25(OH)D concentration of 80 nmol/L (32 ng/mL) had 60% of the 6-20 year mortality rate as those with 45 nmol/L (18 ng/mL).

Reduced 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia [Afzal, 2014]

Two papers reported that those with low 25(OH)D concentrations had increased risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This first one is from Denmark. A study involving 418 people followed for 30 years found a 25% increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 22% increased risk of vascular dementia for those with baseline 25(OH)D concentration < 25 nmol/L (10 ng/ml) compared to > 50 nmol/L (20 ng/ml)

Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease [Littlejohns, 2014]

In this second paper on dementia and Alzheimer disease, a study in the United States involving 1,658 participants followed for 5.6 years found a 125% increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease for those with severely deficient 25(OH)D levels (< 25 nmol/L (10 ng/mL)), and a 53% increased risk for those with deficient levels ( ≥ 25 to < 50 nmol/L) compared to participants with sufficient concentrations ( ≥ 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL)).


Post-hoc comparison of vitamin D status at three time points during pregnancy demonstrates lower risk of preterm birth with higher vitamin D closer to delivery [Wagner, 2014]

There is considerable interest in the role of vitamin D during pregnancy. In a reanalysis of results from two maternal vitamin D supplementation trials conducted in South Carolina, it was found that: “(1) maternal vitamin D status closest to delivery date was more significantly associated with preterm birth, suggesting that later intervention as a rescue treatment may positively impact the risk of preterm delivery, and (2) a serum concentration of 100 nmol/L (40ng/mL) in the 3rd trimester was associated with a 47% reduction in preterm births.”

Vitamin D in fetal development: Findings from a birth cohort study [Hart, 2014]

A study in Australia compared maternal 25(OH)D concentration at 18 weeks’ pregnancy with outcomes of the children years later. The authors found that “maternal vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy was associated with impaired lung development in 6-year-old offspring, neurocognitive difficulties at age 10, increased risk of eating disorders in adolescence, and lower peak bone mass at 20 years.”

Vitamin D and pre-eclampsia: original data, systematic review and meta-analysis [Hypponen, 2014]

A review of vitamin D supplementation and 25(OH)D concentrations during pregnancy found vitamin D reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. For 25(OH)D concentration, the combined risk reduction was 48% with higher level circulating vitamin D. For vitamin D RCTs, the combined risk reduction was 34% for vitamin D supplementation vs. a placebo. This review provides further support for the importance of vitamin D supplementation and raising 25(OH)D concentrations during pregnancy.


An approach recently being applied to evaluating whether vitamin D can be considered causally linked to health outcomes is Mendelian randomization analysis. In this approach, genetic variants known to be affected by vitamin D are compared to health outcomes. The advantage of this approach is that the results should be independent of baseline 25(OH)D concentrations, which vary over time. The disadvantage is that only a few factors are considered and the most important ones affecting 25(OH)D concentrations may not be included.

Genetically low vitamin D concentrations and increased mortality: mendelian randomization analysis in three large cohorts [Azfal, 2014]

In a study involving 95,766 white participants of Danish descent, genetic variations of DHCR7 (related to vitamin D synthesis) and CYP2R1 (hepatic 25-hydroxylation), which slightly lower plasma 25(OH)D concentrations over the lifetime of the subjects, were examined. As 25(OH)D increased, significant reductions were found for all-cause, cancer and other mortality rates, but not for cardiovascular mortality. These results are interesting, but the method is not strong enough to rule out a protective role of vitamin D in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. Some regard this approach as particularly weak, since the serum 25(OH)D concentration depends much more in the general population upon solar exposure than upon genes.

Guidelines for optimizing design and analysis of clinical studies of nutrient effects [Heaney, 2014]

Most vitamin D RCTs were based on guidelines designed for pharmaceutical drugs where the only source of the agent is the medication in the trial, and there is a linear dose-response relation between the agent and the outcome. Dr. Heaney asserts that neither assumption is valid for vitamin D trials.

Instead, vitamin D trials should:

  1. Start with an understanding of the 25(OH)D concentration-health outcome relationship. What are we expecting to find?
  2. Measure 25(OH)D concentrations of prospective trial participants and only enroll those with values near the low end of the relation.
  3. Supplement with enough vitamin D to raise 25(OH)D concentrations to near the upper end of the relation.
  4. Measure 25(OH)D concentrations throughout the trial.
  5. Optimize the status of other nutrients related to vitamin D so that vitamin D is the only limiting factor in the response.

Unfortunately, many of the ongoing vitamin D trials have not been designed with these or similar guidelines in mind. As a result, it may be some time before vitamin D RCTs will be able to provide adequate evidence to confirm or refute the findings of observational studies for non-skeletal diseases.


Research on the health benefits of solar UVB exposure and vitamin D continues at a rapid pace. We appear to be in the middle of the golden age of vitamin D research, a period with much progress in understanding the effects of UVB exposure and vitamin D for a large range of health outcomes. We are shifting from discovery to evaluation of previous findings and testing the role of vitamin D in prevention and treatment of various diseases.

While many of the findings from ecological and observational studies are strong, it appears that health systems and policy makers are awaiting results from large on-going RCTs before they accept UVB exposure and vitamin D as valid factors for health. Unfortunately, most of the RCTs currently underway and due to be completed before the end of the decade, including large-scale RCTs in several countries, have not been properly designed, so they may not shed light on vitamin D’s preventive powers. Thus, it may be another decade before the true health benefits of vitamin D and sunlight are accepted. Meanwhile, various types of research will continue and it will be up to individuals and their health care providers to evaluate the available evidence and act accordingly.

For additional information on solar UVB and vitamin D:



Other OMNS Press Releases on Vitamin D

This press release is the fifth in the series on vitamin D by the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. Previous articles:

  1. Vitamin D Stops Cancer; Cuts Risk In Half. American Cancer Society Drags its Feet. Oct. 2, 2008. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n11.shtml
  2. Why You Need More Vitamin D. A Lot More. Sept. 16, 2011. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n07.shtml
  3. Top Vitamin D Papers of 2011, Dosage Recommendations and Clinical Applications. April 10, 2012; http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v08n12.shtml
  4. Vitamin D is Now the Most Popular Vitamin. Jan. 17, 2013. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n01.shtml

Peer review by:

Barbara J Boucher, MD, FRCP, Centre for Diabetes, Blizard Institute, Bart’s & The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.

John J. Cannell, MD, Director, Vitamin D Council, San Luis Obispo, CA, http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Division of Epidemiology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA

William B. Grant, Ph.D., Director, Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center, San Francisco, CA,  http://www.sunarc.org/

Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, and the Vitamin D, Skin, and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA,  http://drholick.com/, Interview at http://www.doctoryourself.com/holick.html

Henry Lahore, Director, http://www.vitaminDwiki.com, Port Townsend, WA

Pawel Pludowski, M.D., Department of Biochemistry, Radioimmunology and Experimental Medicine, The Children’s Memorial Health Institute, Warsaw, Poland



Afzal S, Bojesen SE, Nordestgaard BG. Reduced 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Alzheimers Dement. 2014 May;10(3):296-302.

Afzal S, Brondum-Jacobsen P, Bojesen SE, Nordestgaard BG. Genetically low vitamin D concentrations and increased mortality: mendelian randomisation analysis in three large cohorts. BMJ. 2014 Nov 18;349:g6330. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25406188

Chowdhury R, Kunutsor S, Vitezova A, Oliver-Williams C, Chowdhury S, Kiefte-de-Jong JC, Khan H, Baena CP, Prabhakaran D, Hoshen MB, Feldman BS, Pan A, Johnson L, Crowe F, Hu FB, Franco OH. Vitamin D and risk of cause specific death: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort and randomised intervention studies. BMJ. 2014 Apr 1;348:g1903. http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g1903?view=long&pmid=24690623

Fedirko V, Duarte-Salles T, Bamia C, Trichopoulou A, Aleksandrova K, Trichopoulos D, Trepo E, Tjonneland A, Olsen A, Overvad K, Boutron-Ruault MC, Clavel-Chapelon F, Kvaskoff M, Kühn T, Lukanova A, Boeing H, Buijsse B, Klinaki E, Tsimakidi C, Naccarati A, Tagliabue G, Panico S, Tumino R, Palli D, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Siersema PD, Peters PH, Lund E, Brustad M, Olsen KS, Weiderpass E, Zamora-Ros R, S nchez MJ, Ardanaz E, Amiano P, Navarro C, Quir¢s JR, Werner M, Sund M, Lindkvist B, Malm J, Travis RC, Khaw KT, Stepien M, Scalbert A, Romieu I, Lagiou P, Riboli E, Jenab M. Prediagnostic circulating vitamin D levels and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in European populations: a nested case-control study. Hepatology. 2014 Oct;60(4):1222-30.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24644045

Garland CF, Kim JJ, Mohr SB, Gorham ED, Grant WB, Giovannucci EL, Baggerly L, Hofflich H, Ramsdell J, Zeng K, Heaney RP.Meta-analysis of all-cause mortality according to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Am J Pub Health. 2014 Aug;104(8):e43-50. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24922127

Hart PH, Lucas RM, Walsh JP, Zosky GR, Whitehouse AJ, Zhu K, Allen KL, Kusel MM, Anderson D, Mountain JA. Vitamin D in fetal development: Findings from a birth cohort study. Pediatrics. 2015 Jan;135(1):e167-73. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25511121

Heaney RP. Guidelines for optimizing design and analysis of clinical studies of nutrient effects. Nutr Rev. 2014 Jan;72(1):48-54. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24330136

Hyppönen E, Cavadino A, Williams D, Fraser A, Vereczkey A, Fraser WD, B nhidy F, Lawlor D, Czeizel AE. Vitamin D and pre-eclampsia: original data, systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann NutrMetab. 2013;63(4):331-40. (published in 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24603503

Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Nielsen K, Stenbeck M, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the MISS cohort. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24697969

Littlejohns TJ, Henley WE, Lang IA, Annweiler C, Beauchet O, Chaves PH, Fried L, Kestenbaum BR, Kuller LH, Lang KM, Lopez OL, Kos K, Soni M, Llewellyn DJ. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease.Neurology. 2014 Sep 2;83(10):920-8.

Martineau AR, James WY, Hooper RL, Barnes NC, Jolliffe DA, Greiller CL, Islam K, McLaughlin D, Bhowmik A, Timms PM, Rajakulasingam RK, Rowe M, Venton TR, Choudhury AB, Simcock DE, Wilks M, Degun A, Sadique Z, Monteiro WR, Corrigan CJ, Hawrylowicz CM, Griffiths CJ. Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (ViDiCO): a multicentre, double-blind, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med. 2014 Dec 1. pii: S2213-2600(14)70255-3. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(14)70255-3. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25476069

Mohr SB, Gorham ED, Kim J, Hofflich H, Cuomo RE, Garland CF. Could vitamin D sufficiency improve the survival of colorectal cancer patients? J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Dec 19. pii: S0960-0760(14)00316-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2014.12.010. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25533386

Mohr SB, Gorham ED, Kim J, Hofflich H, Garland CF. Meta-analysis of vitamin D sufficiency for improving survival of patients with breast cancer. Anticancer Res. 2014 Mar;34(3):1163-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24596354

Nguyen S, Baggerly L, French C, Heaney RP, Gorham ED, Garland CF. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D in the range of 20 to 100 ng/mL and incidence of kidney stones. Am J Public Health. 2014 Sep;104(9):1783-7.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24134366

Spedding S. Vitamin D and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws. Nutrients. 2014 Apr 11;6(4):1501-18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24732019

Tran B, Armstrong BK, Ebeling PR, English DR, Kimlin MG, van der Pols JC, Venn A, Gebski V, Whiteman DC, Webb PM, Neale RE. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on antibiotic use: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;99(1):156-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24108783

Wagner CL, Baggerly C, McDonnell SL, Baggerly L, Hamilton SA, Winkler J, Warner G, Rodriguez C, Shary JR, Smith PG, Hollis BW. Post-hoc comparison of vitamin D status at three time points during pregnancy demonstrates lower risk of preterm birth with higher vitamin D closer to delivery. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Nov 13. pii: S0960-0760(14)00268-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2014.11.013. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25448734

Wang WJ, Gray S, Sison C, Arramraju S, John BK, Hussain SA, Kim SH, Mehta P, Rubin M. Low vitamin D level is an independent predictor of poor outcomes in Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2014 Jan;7(1):14-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24381644

Wong MS, Leisegang MS, Kruse C, Vogel J, Schürmann C, Dehne N, Weigert A, Herrmann E, Brüne B, Shah AM, Steinhilber D, Offermanns S, Carmeliet G, Badenhoop K, Schröder K, Brandes RP. Vitamin D promotes vascular regeneration. Circulation. 2014 Sep 16;130(12):976-86. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25015343

Zgaga L, Theodoratou E, Farrington SM, Din FV, Ooi LY, Glodzik D, Johnston S, Tenesa A, Campbell H, Dunlop MG. Plasma vitamin D concentration influences survival outcome after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2014 Aug 10;32(23):2430-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25002714

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