One of the Biggest Medical Mistakes of All Time –And What You Can Do To Correct It

Medical research isn’t perfect. Government regulatory agencies aren’t either. Unfortunately, the combination of poor research plus a government agency’s failure to correct the researchers’ errors resulted in one of the biggest public health disasters in modern history. The mistake? Believing that taking adequate amounts of vitamin D3 is dangerous. The consequences? Millions of Americans are deficient in vitamin D3. How important is that? Very, very important.

Breast Cancer Reduced Up To 77%
with Higher Levels of Vitamin D3

A recently published four-year, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial—the “gold standard” of clinical trials—studied over 1,000 postmenopausal women in Nebraska. The researchers found that women who received 1100 IU of vitamin D3 during the entire four-year period had 60% less breast cancer than the placebo group who took no vitamin D3. When the first year was “washed-out” due to the chance of some women already having breast cancer, the reduction in breast cancer was an amazing 77%![i][1] (The women also received 1500 mg calcium. Calcium alone had no effect on cancer.) I know of nothing else that has this kind of “gold standard” proof in preventing breast cancer—safely and economically. The dose of 1100 IU of vitamin D3 was almost three times what the government agency recommends.

To fully understand how this could affect you and your family, let me explain the statistics of this. First, one out of three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. So, you or a loved one has a very good chance of getting cancer. According to this study, if you line up 100 women who would have gotten breast cancer— and they are all taking 1100 IU of vitamin D3—77 of these women who would have gotten breast cancer won’t.

By the way, the researchers said the results of this study are relevant to other cancers in men as well as women.

And this is only one example. Time Magazine called vitamin D one of the Top Ten Medical Breakthroughs of 2007. Why? In this issue of Natural Health News Report I’m going to give you many more examples of why vitamin D3 is one of the most important supplements you can take to live a longer, healthier and pain-free life.

What is Vitamin D?[ii][2]

There are two major forms of vitamin D. Our bodies make vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) when our skin is exposed to the UVB rays of the sun. Because fur bearing animals make cholecalciferol in their fur, it can be used as a source of vitamin D3 for humans. Vitamin D3 is commercially for produced for supplements by extraction from wool fat, followed by UVB irradiation and purification.[iii][3] Cod liver oil also contains vitamin D3.

Vitamin D3 in the body is broken down into calcidiol and calcitriol. Calcidiol stores vitamin D and balances calcium. Calcitriol also balances your calcium levels and it circulates through the blood where it helps protect almost every cell and tissue. The discovery of calcitriol’s ability to protect cells against cancer and other types of damage is what made vitamin D one of the “top medical breakthroughs” of 2007.

Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is made in plants and has a different chemical structure than D3. It is produced commercially by irradiating and then purifying an extract of yeast. Earlier studies indicated that D2 was four times less potent than D3, but a recent study showed that both were equally effective in raising levels of vitamin D in humans.[iv][4] I prefer supplements of vitamin D3 because they have the same chemical structure as what your body produces from sunlight.

The Sun Conundrum

If you are dark skinned, it takes up to five to ten times more sun exposure to make vitamin D for you. If you are very light skinned, you need much less sun. Our ancestors were exposed to the sun almost daily. Modern humans, however, usually cover all except 5% of our skin surface with clothing and frequently cover whatever skin surface we have left with sunscreen—blocking out the UVB rays that create vitamin D3. Glass also blocks UVB radiation and prevents the production of vitamin D3 by your skin.

There are few natural food sources of vitamin D3.[v][5] Exposure of 5% of our skin to the sun daily as the only source of vitamin D3 leaves half the population deficient, according to Dr. Ronald Vieth, one of the world’s leading researchers in vitamin D.[vi][6] Because sun exposure can cause inflammation, damage skin and lead to wrinkling and skin cancer, I suggest always taking a good vitamin D3 supplement.

You Must Have Enough

Almost every tissue and cell in the body requires vitamin D3.[vii][7] It’s not a frill—you must have enough vitamin D3 to stay healthy. When you know that, it makes sense that having enough vitamin D3 helps protect cells from becoming cancerous, reduces pain and inflammation, keeps bones and muscles strong, supports the heart and the immune system and much more.

Because we get very little vitamin D3 from our food, and getting enough sun is problematical, the government’s recommendation on safe limits for supplementation is critical. If you don’t get enough sunlight (and most of us don’t), you must supplement. That’s why the mistake on recommended intake is so devastating.

How Did Such a Mistake Happen?

As a doctor, I know that if the official Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the authoritative government agency for vitamin recommendations, says that higher intakes of vitamin D are dangerously toxic, I’m going to believe them. I will advise my patients not to take more than the recommended amount. I trust that this government agency has studied the science and made the best recommendation based on the best studies.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened with vitamin D3. Doctors and the American public were misled by poor science—until a hero of modern medicine, Dr. Reinhold Vieth of the University of Toronto in Canada, challenged the medical establishment’s recommendations in a paper published by the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999.

The History of Poor Science and Bad Judgment

Here’s the astonishing history of poor science and bad judgment that duped doctors, created an epidemic of vitamin D3 deficiency, and endangered the health of Americans for decades.

In his 1999 review of the evidence on the safety of vitamin D, Dr. Vieth reports that in 1963 the expert committee on vitamin D provided no research evidence for its opinion that adults only needed a little vitamin D. They just arbitrarily decided that they would recommend one-half the infant dose.[viii][8] The infant dose was based on the folk practice of giving infants a teaspoon of cod liver oil to prevent rickets. A teaspoon of cod liver oil contains about 400 IU of vitamin D3. That became the official recommended dose for infants. The infants seemed to be okay, so that was probably a safe dose, reasoned the scientific committee. The infant dose was simply cut in half for adults, with no evidence that adults needed lower doses. And that is how the standard recommended dose of 200 IU daily of vitamin D for adults was established. [ix][9]

(Now we know that people 70 and over who are out in the sun produce only 25% of the vitamin D3 as a healthy young adult. Seniors need more, not less, supplemental vitamin D3.)

In 1989, the expert committee described 200 IU a day as a “generous allowance” but presented no evidence to support this. According to Dr. Vieth, there is no published data showing that 200 IU daily has any effect in providing an adequate amount of vitamin D in adults. [x][10]

Is Vitamin D3 Toxic? Who Says So?

Dr. Vieth, after preparing his exhaustive and authoritative review of the literature and evidence on vitamin D, stated, “Throughout my preparation of this review, I was amazed at the lack of evidence supporting statements about the toxicity of moderate doses of vitamin D.” He added, “If there is published evidence of toxicity in adults from an intake of 10,000 IU a day, [verified by a laboratory analysis], I have yet to find it.”[xi][11]

In fact, Dr. Vieth called the fear of vitamin D toxicity akin to hysteria. A case report of four patients in a 1997 medical journal alleging toxicity from taking 1200 IU daily has been used as the substantiation for low recommendations. Yet this “study” was based on unreliable self-reported dosing by the individuals and does not even begin to reach the “gold standard” of a double blind, placebo controlled trial. The head of the National Institutes of Health at that time wrote an accompanying editorial warning doctors about the toxicity of vitamin D.[xii][12]

Poor Research

The 1987 Council Report for the American Medical Association supported the toxicity of vitamin D. It reported that “dosages of 10,000 IU /daily for several months have resulted in marked disturbances in calcium metabolism…, and in some cases, death.” The two references used to substantiate this dramatic statement were bogus. One was a review article about vitamins in general which gave no evidence about vitamin D at all, and the other cited a paper from 1948 in which patients had accidentally ingested 150,000-600,000 IU/daily, yet no one died.[xiii][13]

In 1997 the National Academy of Sciences published only one 1984 study from an obscure Indian journal to support establishing a safe upper limit of 2,000 IU daily. The study reported on 6 subjects but did not verify the doses of vitamin D and the blood concentrations of vitamin D were not reported.[xiv][14] Opposing research with substantial evidence of the safety of vitamin D at much higher doses than 2,000 IU daily were not considered.[xv][15]

Bad Judgment

Unfortunately, in 2001, the recommendation for children and adolescents was lowered from the longstanding cod liver oil standard of 400 IU per day to half that—even though there was mounting evidence of the need to increase, not decrease supplementation.[xvi][16] [xvii][17] A lack of vitamin D3 in childhood and adolescence may lead to a weaker bones, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other problems.[xviii][18] [xix][19] In addition, American children are spending less time in the sun and using more sunscreen—reducing their levels of vitamin D.


Other countries are pulling ahead of us. The Canadian Cancer Society has advised all Canadians to take 1000 IU of vitamin D daily. The Canadian Pediatric Society now recommends that pregnant women take 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily which is ten times more than the 200 IU recommended by the National Institutes of Health. The vitamin D experts, however, now recommend 6000 IU for pregnant and lactating women. [xx][20] Unfortunately, the counterpart of the NIH, Health Canada, is also sticking by the 200 IU a day, including pregnant and lactating women—even though the scientific evidence supports higher dosages.[xxi][21] Dr. Ronald Vieth, leading expert on the safety of vitamin D, calls the current recommendation of 200 IU “woefully inadequate.”[xxii][22]

Woefully Inadequate?

Adequate Intakes Recommended by the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences[xxiii][23]

Children and adults up to 50 years—200 IU

Adults 51-70 years—400 IU

71 years and older—600 IU
Tolerable Upper Intake

0-12 months—1000 IU.

Children, adolescents, adults, pregnant and lactating women, seniors—2000 IU

Vitamin D Scientific Experts Recommendations[xxiv][24] [xxv][25] [xxvi][26] [xxvii][27] [xxviii][28] [xxix][29] [xxx][30]
Adequate Daily Intake—1,000 IU
Tolerable Upper Limit—10,000 IU
Harvard Scientists Vote for Higher Levels of Vitamin D[xxxi][31]

The prestigious Harvard Public Health Review supports increased dosages of vitamin D. Their experts say that large numbers of the U.S. population don’t get enough vitamin D.

Harvard professor and vitamin D researcher Dr. Edward Giovannucci says, “The body is smart. It makes no more vitamin D than it needs…Recent evidence suggests that doses upwards of 10,000 IU a day aren’t toxic….”

Dr. Giovannucci and his colleagues studied prostate cancer in men and discovered a connection between prostate cancer and low blood levels of vitamin D. “Moreover,” he states, “more than two-thirds of the nearly 15,000 men in this study were significantly deficient in the vitamin.”

He and his colleagues also found that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have about half the risk of colon cancer as those who don’t get enough. Dr. Alberto Ascherio, another vitamin D scientist at Harvard, also found that the higher vitamin D levels one has, the lower the risk of multiple sclerosis.

What Can You Do?

Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence, you can supplement with vitamin D3 at levels that will give you real health protection. In the article Who’s At Risk fromthe Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic? I’ll tell you more about the proven health benefits of this miracle vitamin that reduces pain and inflammation—especially lower back pain—lowers your risk of cancer, protects you from heart disease, may help you live longer, plus many other amazing health benefits. I’ll also tell you who’s at the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency. Plus, you’ll learn what test to request to find out if you are vitamin D deficient or if you are getting too much. Many doctors and laboratories are using an outdated test that may say you have sufficient vitamin D—when you actually don’t have enough.

Prudent Cautions

Because the exposure to sunlight and food sources of vitamin D varies and it is possible to take too much vitamin D at extremely high levels, do not exceed 10,000 IU a day unless you are under the supervision of a doctor and having your blood checked frequently. If you have hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, or lymphoma, check with your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements.


[1] Lappe JM, et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.

[2] Holick MF. The vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences. J Nutr. 2005 Nov;135(11):2739S-48S.

[3] Holick (2005)


[5] Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69:842-56.

[6] Vieth (1999)

[7] Holick (2005)

[8] Blumberg RW et al. The prophylactic requirement and the toxicity of vitamin D. Pediatrics 1963;31:512-25.

[9] Blumberg (1963)

[10] Vieth (1999)

[11] Vieth (1999)

[12] Vieth (1999)

[13] Vieth (1999)

[14] Narang NK, et al. Role of vitamin D in pulmonary tuberculosis. J Assoc Physicians India. 1984;32:185-6.

[15] Vieth (1999)

[16] Gartner LM, et al. Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency: new guidelines for vitamin D intake. Pediatrics. 2003 Apr;111(4 Pt 1):908-10.

[17] Fuleihan GE, et al. Hypovitaminosis D in healthy school children. Pediatrics. 2001 April;107(4):e53.

[18] Litonjua AA, et al. Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Oct 3.

[19] Hypponen E, et al. Intake of vitamin D and the risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet. 2001 Nov 3;35899292):1500-3.

[20] Basile LA, et al. The effect of high-dose vitamin D supplementation on serum vitamin D levels and milk calcium concentration in lactating women and their infants. Breastfeed Med. 2006 Spring;19(1):27-35.

[21] Bodnar LM, et al. High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in black and white pregnant women residing in the northern United States and their neonates. J Nutr. 2007 Feb;137(2):447-52.

[22] Vieth (1999)

[23] Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health. Online

[24] Vieth (1999),

[25] Heaney RP et al. Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):204-10.

[26] Heany RP et al. Calcium absorption varies within the reference range for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. J Am Coll Nutr 2003;22:142-6.

[27] Vieth R, et al. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. Editorial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007; 85: 649—650.

[28] Broe KE, et al. A higher dose of vitamin D reduces the risk of falls in nursing home residents: a randomized, multiple-dose study. J Am Geriatrics Soc. 2007;55: 234—239.

[29] Martins D, et al. Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and the serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the United States. Arch Int Med. 2007 Vol 167: 1159-1165.

[30] Hyponnen, et al. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45 y; nationwide cohort study of dietary and lifestyle predictors. Am J Clin Med, 2007, vol. 85, pp. 860—868.

[31] Harvard Public Health Review: Harvard School of Public Health. Vitamin D: How much is enough? Spring/Summer 2007. Online

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