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Why Vitamin D Supplements Can’t Replace Sunshine

on May 1 | in Natural Remedies | by | with 84 Comments

[info_box] Note from Mommypotamus: I realize that some people who read this have experienced the pain and difficulty of skin cancer, either personally or with a loved one. I would never dare to invalidate these experiences or to treat them lightly. It is my hope that by providing this research, which is based off the work of a senior MIT scientist and a former cancer and DNA research scientist, I will make a compelling case for re-examining our cultural attitudes about sunlight.  I am not a doctor and I do not advocate sunburns at all, but it is my opinion that responsible sunlight exposure positively affects our health when a good diet with plenty of healthy fats/ antioxidants are present. My writing reflects a commitment to that lifestyle. Comments are welcome no matter your opinion, but please show kindness to one another.[/info_box]

The other day I was talking to this Senior Researcher at MIT . . .

Hanging out at Wise Traditions with Emily of Holistic Kid and Kristen of Food Renegade

Man, I can’t believe I finally got to say that! It’s been #184 on my unofficial bucket list for, like, ever! Now to cross off #185  . . . does anybody know where I can find a cranberry bog? 

Back to the subject at hand, though. I contacted Dr. Stephanie Seneff after hearing her speak on Nutrition and Metabolism at the Wise Traditions conference last year. Micah and I were in a rather rowdy toddler room with the sound piped in, but I **thought** I heard her say that Vitamin D3 supplements were basically useless. But she couldn’t have said that, right? Vitamin D supplements are sunshine in a bottle!

Maybe not. 

“My personal belief is that vitamin D supplements are useless,” Dr. Seneff recently confirmed via email. According to her, it’s what happens right before our bodies make vitamin D that makes all the difference: the oxidation of cholesterol and sulfur on our skin.

“Both cholesterol and sulfur afford protection in the skin from radiation damage to the cell’s DNA, the kind of damage that can lead to skin cancer. Cholesterol and sulfur become oxidized upon exposure to the high frequency rays in sunlight, thus acting as antioxidants to “take the heat,” so to speak. Oxidation of cholesterol is the first step in the process by which cholesterol transforms itself into vitamin D3.” (source)

This process yields Vitamin D sulfate, which is vastly different than plant-based Vitamin D2 and animal-based Vitamin D3.

“Upon exposure to the sun, the skin synthesizes vitamin D3 Sulfate, a form of vitamin D that, unlike unsulfated vitamin D3, is water soluble. As a consequence, it can travel freely in the blood stream rather than encapsulated inside LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) for transport. The form of vitamin D that is present in both human milk and raw cow’s milk is vitamin D3 sulfate (pasteurization destroys it in cow’s milk).” (emphasis mine, source)

The transformation of sulfur into sulfate is essential to good health because “it populates the extracellular matrix proteins of all the cells and keeps them healthy,” says Seneff. “It’s especially important in the blood for keeping microbes at bay  . . . which is why it appears that vitamin D builds a stronger immune system (I don’t think this is correct –I think it’s the sulfate that gets produced in the skin upon sunlight exposure that protects the immune system, and the vitamin D is just an indirect measure of sunlight exposure — that is, unless you get your vitamin D predominantly from supplements).” (emphasis mine, source)

But, Surely . . .

The body can convert D3 supplements into D3 sulfate, right? Unfortunately, though our bodies are genius chemists that does not appear to be possible. Synthesis of cholesterol into D3 and sulfur into sulfate occur simultaneously, like mixing eggs and flour/salt/water to bake a cake. You can’t put the eggs in the oven, bake at 350F for 45 minutes and then pull out the pan and add the flour, right? Same thing here.

Interestingly, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D3 sulfate are each beneficial in their own way. For example, plain ole D3 is amazing at transporting calcium through the body, whereas:

“The sulfated form of vitamin D does not work for calcium transport . . . [However] it’s the sulfated form of vitamin D that offers the protection from cancer. It strengthens your immune system. It protects you from cardiovascular disease. It’s good for your brain. It helps depression. I think all of those effects of vitamin D are effects of vitamin D sulfate.”

Sounds pretty good, except if you’re like me you want the calcium transport, too! No worries, after Vitamin D sulfate does it’s thing it converts back to pure Vitamin D and gets to work on bone health. Or, as Dr. Seneff put it “vitamin D3 sulfate parks its sulfate somewhere among the extracellular matrix proteins, helping the blood to stay healthy.  Having done that, it becomes vitamin D3 and can then transport calcium.”

What About Cod Liver Oil?

No discussion of D3 supplements is complete without talking about my favorite supplement, fermented cod liver oil. It contains Vitamin D3 instead of D3 sulfate, but both Dr. Seneff and I still recommend it. I can’t speak to all of her reasons, but I can tell you mine:

Dr. Weston A. Price has firmly established the benefits of consuming fat soluble vitamins A, D, E , and K. Unlike D3 drops which isolate one component, fermented cod liver oil is a delicate balance of beneficial co-factors, enzymes, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and micronutrients. Specifically, Vitamin D works with Vitamin A to utilize calcium and phosphorous in the body. Contrary to what we have heard carrots contain betacarotene, not Vitamin A, so it is very likely that using D drops alone only gives us part of what we need for calcium transport. That’s why I take fermented cod liver oil in the winter months when Vitamin D when production from skin is low.

Wait, isn’t that Vitamin D supplementation? Yes . . . yes it is.  

The fact is our bodies don’t make much Vitamin D during the winter, and supplementation from whole food sources makes sense. BUT – we still need sunshine to synthesize sulfate! Even in winter our skin can do this by synthesizing another compound, cholesterol sulfate – just add sunlight!

Is it a good idea to consume Vitamin D rich foods during the winter? Or even D3 drops if that is not available? Though I deeply respect Dr. Seneff’s research, I think so. As Kristen of Food Renegade said in the comments:

“The ideal is to eat enough cholesterol from good animal sources and get enough sunshine so that Vitamin D levels are never a problem. The next best thing is to eat superfoods high in Vitamin D and other complimentary nutrients — like fermented cod liver oil. Perhaps the next best thing is to have quality, whole food based supplements that may mimic the synergistic nature of a superfood (I’m thinking of brands like Standard Process and their various Cataplex suplements). And finally, although it may be useless for some things, like the creation of sulfate, there’s the intake of a straight up isolated Vitamin D3 supplement which still has measurable benefits as study after study has proven. (And of course the BAD option would be to take no supplements and eat a Standard American Diet and expose yourself regularly to environmental toxins while not having a healthy enough body to eliminate them.)

Sometimes, we can’t let the good be the enemy of the ideal. And, of course, that means we should know what the ideal *is*.”

Coming up in this series: Why most “healthy” sunscreens contain ingredients that cause DNA deletions in mice, using common sense in the sun, how antioxidants prevent sunburn, how to make your own sunscreen and a giveaway!

Note: I have been asked several times if I take fermented cod liver oil during the spring/summer months. The answer is yes, and I’ll explain why later this week!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and this site does not provide medical advice. Please see my full disclaimer here.
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84 Responses to Why Vitamin D Supplements Can’t Replace Sunshine

  1. I don’t like hearing this, since we depend on d3 drops most of year where I live.

  2. Abigail Fletcher via FB says:

    Me neither Angela – I have just spend £10 on some quality D3

  3. Sorry, ya’ll! I hope the discussion at the bottom on winter supplementation and sulphate synthesis makes you feel a little better!

  4. Sarah Whitsett Finks via FB says:

    so what are we supposed to do with no sun for 6 months out of the year??

  5. No sun at all, Sarah Whitsett Finks? Or just rays that don’t produce a lot of vitamin D?

  6. Sarah Whitsett Finks via FB says:

    we live in Ann Arbor. Most of the winter it is overcast no sun. Seriously maybe an occasional day with sun here and there. Suggestions?

  7. Sahn Lee via FB says:

    I read an article once in the NYT by a doc regarding getting enough D for the year from the sun. He stated that being exposed all summer for 10-15 minutes a day made enough for the whole year. Just need to be mostly nekkid during those 10-15. :)

  8. That’s definitely a good way to build up stores, Sahn Lee! I’m not sure about sulphate, though. Good new is that we can produce that via sunshine even in winter if we go outside :)

    • except, not if you live too far north. in boston, you can only make vitamin D during about 6 weeks of summer, if and only if you are out between 12 and 3 (but not at 3:30), because the sun needs to be at a certain height to give you the right rays for D production.

      that and, i’m just not in league with this researcher. sure, real sun is much better, it’s totally true, but D3 supplementation is so well documented in its ability to improve health that it’s not really accurate to say that it isn’t working. we can certainly say that it isn’t optimal, or that it isn’t complete, but sadly, we don’t all live on a beach at the equator, so, better D3 than nothing! :-)

      • Heather says:

        Well, hello there Miss Katja! I believe I miscommunicated in that previous comment. I meant that it appears we can make cholesterol sulfate in the winter, not vitamin D!

        • L.S. says:

          Where’s the research on this? If we can’t produce Vit D, how then can we produce it’s cholesterol sulfate when it seems it’s caused by the same reaction on the skin? Also, exposing your skin to rays that are lower than 50 degrees on the horizon actually ups your risk of skin cancer. Doesn’t seem quite right to say our skin could make the cholesterol sulfate at a time when it can’t make Vit D. I feel very confused.

  9. Michelle Valdes via FB says:

    Good info to know. Very much looking forward to learning how to make my own sunscreen!!! :)

  10. Sarah Whitsett Finks via FB says:

    We have a “happy light” it is supposed to imitate the sun but it doesn’t cause your body to produce vitamin D. So is taking vitamin D supplements really pointless and I just need to move south:)

  11. That’s a tough question, Sarah Whitsett Finks! I honestly don’t know. Are sun lamps common in your area? When my husband went to college in Denmark a lot of the population used doctor-prescribed sun lamps under similar conditions.

  12. Monica says:

    I read fast with three littles around me, so forgive me if you answered this…so sunlight is the best form of Vitamin D, but should we still take our VD3 to help with calcium? Or stop spending our money on Vitamin D3? I will order my fermented cod liver today! Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Monica! That’s a great question. Personally, I’m unconvinced that isolated D3 is as effective as D3+Vitamin A for transporting calcium and phosphorous to bones, so I stick to D3 + Vitamin A in the form of cod liver oil.

    • Heather says:

      I think that is a personal decision. Personally, I consume lots of Vitamin D3 rich foods because I think they are very beneficial. If those foods were unavailable I’d probably supplement with D3 drops. As Kristen said, “we can’t let the ideal be the enemy of the good! If all we can manage is something “good” but not “best,” we shouldn’t stop doing the good thing just because it’s not good enough!”

  13. Kirsten says:

    I’ll join in on the “what if there’s no sun?” question. :) I do supplement with D3, and take fish oil too (switching to FCLO this next time), but I want something that’s going to work, I course! ;) Perhaps drinking raw milk? But what if the cows are in the rain too? I love this series, by the way! :)

    • Heather says:

      I’m glad you do, Kirsten! To answer your question, raw milk does seem to be a good option as long as the cows are getting some sun. Other than that, I wouldn’t worry about a rainy patch here and there :)

  14. JILL says:

    What a bummer, just when you think you have found the magic pill! :) I take a capsule and give my 2 kiddos a drop a day (400 IU). I don’t think it is harmful, so we’ll keep taking it, even though it may not be the “be all, end all” like I thought. We live in Oregon – rain and uninviting weather for about 8 or 9 months on the year. I guess we need to just get out more and have fun puddle jumping! :)

    Thanks for the posts I always look forward to reading your blog…

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jill! As I edited to reflect in my post, I personally would consider D drops a worthwhile “second best” option to dietary Vitamin D3 because it is clearly beneficial for calcium and phosphorous transport. And . . . puddles are fun!

  15. Alexis D says:

    I was taking the peppermint FCLO but then reading numerous places that pregnant/nursing mamas should limit their peppermint intake so I’m currently taking the Butter/FCLO blend! :)

  16. Suzanne says:

    Nobody is saying that the supplements won’t help if you are really deficient and can’t get in any sun, but they are a man-made chemical (except for cod liver oil which should be fermented whenever possible). Still you should make a point of going out in the sun for at least 15 minutes a few days/wk (everyday is even better) with as little clothing as possible and no make up, contacts, glasses and not a drop of sunscreen. Shane Ellison, The People’s Chemist, says it best: http://thepeopleschemist.com/the-vitamin-d-scam/

    Do this conscientiously and avoid the doctor (which also means that you will save money on copays and scripts)!!!

    • L.S. says:

      The problem is, when the sun is lower than 50 degrees of the horizon, you do not benefit from it. In fact, it is the harmful rays that come through at less than 50 degrees.

  17. Peyton Lauderdale says:

    This is a really interesting post. I found out I had a vit D deficiency (which was shocking, considering what I eat!) and started taking 5000IU capsules, which did raise my levels a bit, but I still had what was considered a deficiency. I switched to drops and it made all the difference. I think the deficiency also had something to do with the infertility I experienced this past year and I am now happily pregnant with our second baby. I can’t say that I agree that taking vitamin D supplements are useless, but using the drops vs. the capsules certainly helped.

  18. Peyton Lauderdale says:

    I was also walking in the sun five days a week when I was diagnosed, which left me baffled that I had a deficiency!

  19. Renee K says:

    So if your vit D levels are low and then they go super awesome with the use of vit D3 drops & FCLO what does that mean? Does it mean that your now high levels of vit D mean nothing because your body didn’t get the chance to process it itself to get the goodness? Or is it still a good thing to now have higher levels of vit D (from 5 to 65). We’re in a low sun environment too.

    • Heather says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t think it does nothing. Vitamin D3 is very good at transporting calcium and phosphorous throughout the body. As I’ll go into in another post, though, eating a cholesterol rich diet and making sure sulfur intake is adequate goes a long way to helping us produce sulfate from the sun even when Vitamin D sulfate is produced.

      • Renee K says:

        Ahh that’s probably part of it too then. I’m referring to my son whose vit D3 levels went from 5 to 65 over 6 months with not much sun. We gave him 5000IU a day in vit D3 drops, FCLO everyday, stopped using sunscreen or hats AND switched from vegetarian to GAPS. So the higher amount of cholesterol & sulfur he is consuming probably helped too.

  20. Raquel says:

    What about tanning beds? I was told that they want to regulate them so that no one under the age of 18 can use them. I live in Canada and it gets to -35 in the winter!

  21. Erin says:

    I can’t wait to learn about the sunscreen. I just got a pretty bad burn this weekend working at the farm we get our CSA box from. I know I get plenty of exposure around here, and take FCLO, I just want to be protected too. Somehow, even though my 1 year old and my husband were out just as long as I was, they didn’t get burned at all.

  22. Dee says:

    Do you only take FCLO in the winter?

    • Heather says:

      No, I take it during spring/summer as well for it’s antioxidant benefits. As I’m writing about in a post for later this week some individuals find that it helps them be in the sun longer without burning.

  23. I tend to think of it in terms of a sliding scale ranging from the bad to the ideal. There’s no denying the multiple studies done on the positive impact of high dosing Vitamin D on preventing everything from depression to birth defects to ear infections. And you can bet money those vitamin D3 supplements were probably even synthetic. Does that mean we should all run out and take synthetic Vitamin D3? No way! But it does show that there’s some benefit to taking it.

    The ideal is to eat enough cholesterol from good animal sources and get enough sunshine so that Vitamin D levels are never a problem. The next best thing is to eat superfoods high in Vitamin D and other complimentary nutrients — like fermented cod liver oil. Perhaps the next best thing is to have quality, whole food based supplements that may mimic the synergistic nature of a superfood (I’m thinking of brands like Standard Process and their various Cataplex suplements). And finally, although it may be useless for some things, like the creation of sulfate, there’s the intake of a straight up isolated Vitamin D3 supplement which still has measurable benefits as study after study has proven. (And of course the BAD option would be to take no supplements and eat a Standard American Diet and expose yourself regularly to environmental toxins while not having a healthy enough body to eliminate them.)

    Sometimes, we can’t let the good be the enemy of the ideal. And, of course, that means we should know what the ideal *is* — which is what blog posts like this one you wrote are excellent at doing.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for this thought provoking response, Kristen. I’m going to edit my post to reflect these insights :)

    • Yikes. I meant to say we can’t let the ideal be the enemy of the good! If all we can manage is something “good” but not “best,” we shouldn’t stop doing the good thing just because it’s not good enough!

      • Heather says:

        Oh wow, I didn’t see the typo up there. Totally read it the way you meant it. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. They have been very helpful!

  24. Lindsay says:

    Do you agree that we shouldn’t wash most of our bodies with soap after being out in the sun to maximize the vitamin D?

  25. Alyse says:

    Love your post on sunshine! Xoxo. The fear factor out there is keeping everyone out of the sunshine and slathering on lotions loaded with-not-so-good-for-you things that may be the actual cause of skin cancers! And there is the learning that what you put on your skin you should be able to ingest through your mouth. As in food for your skin is food you would EAT. Your skin is an organ too. A big one. There is so much more to learn about our sun and it’s affects on us on all levels plus also the stuff sold as safe and good (in our foods and lotions, etc) for you that really isn’t. Thank you for your wonderful blog! I’ve learned that fear shuts down the ability to think and learn.

  26. Carie Connell via FB says:

    While I appreciate Dr. Senoff’s views I do think a quality D3 supplement is great for health! ..we live on east coast and take D3 and cod liver oil off and on year round..and our health has improved and it took us a year to get our Vit. D counts up.. I do prefer the sunlight any time I can get it! :)

  27. I agree, Carie Connell. I am a huge fan of dietary D3 (preferably in whole food form), but her insights into the need for sunlight for sulfate are new to me.

  28. Emily says:

    So I always feel conflicted about this sunscreen/burn/clo issue. We eat pretty well (ok so we’re not perfect), but do take FCLO/HVBO regularly. But we’re pretty pale here in Virginia after winter and we’re going to Florida this weekend for vacation. Do I just chance that we (myself, husband, toddler) don’t get burned? How do I know! Some people do all of these things and still get burnt! I know the best thing to do is cover up, but then we’re not getting all that good Vit D. We will probably be at the beach most of the day everyday for a week. Thoughts? I’m clearly confused!

  29. Natalie says:

    Looking forward to getting my hands on that sunscreen recipe of yours! :)

  30. Chandelle says:

    From what I understand, liver stores of vitamin D do not last very long. Certainly, getting plenty of sun in the summer will not carry you through a dark winter.

    I am light-skinned and live in California. I trusted sunlight alone for a long time and ended up with the lowest possible vitamin D level my doctor had ever seen. My endogenous production was 6; exogenous was 0. I had a list of symptoms as long as my arm. This was after several years of vegetarianism so there were compounding problems, for sure. But it was still a scary experience that I don’t wish to repeat.

    I’m an avid sunbather. I try to get sunlight every day, during different times of day. It can rain here for weeks at a time, but most of the time it’s sunny. Still, I don’t trust sunlight alone. I take vitamin D every day and that’s the only way I’ve found to maintain a normal vitamin D level. I think it’s wise to use both sources — as you say, there are benefits for both.

  31. Alyse says:

    I found the Dr Mercola article on sun exposure. (What happened to the using the words “sun bathing”? Any way this article doesn’t sell product at the end of it for a change. :) Just some good useful info. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/26/maximizing-vitamin-d-exposure.aspx?e_cid=20120326_DNL_art_1

  32. “The ideal is to eat enough cholesterol from good animal sources and get enough sunshine so that Vitamin D levels are never a problem. The next best thing is to eat superfoods high in Vitamin D and other complimentary nutrients — like fermented cod liver oil. Perhaps the next best thing is to have quality, whole food based supplements that may mimic the synergistic nature of a superfood (I’m thinking of brands like Standard Process and their various Cataplex suplements). And finally, although it may be useless for some things, like the creation of sulfate, there’s the intake of a straight up isolated Vitamin D3 supplement which still has measurable benefits as study after study has proven. (And of course the BAD option would be to take no supplements and eat a Standard American Diet and expose yourself regularly to environmental toxins while not having a healthy enough body to eliminate them.)

    Sometimes, we can’t let the good be the enemy of the ideal. And, of course, that means we should know what the ideal *is*”

  33. “The ideal is to eat enough cholesterol from good animal sources and get enough sunshine so that Vitamin D levels are never a problem. The next best thing is to eat superfoods high in Vitamin D and other complimentary nutrients — like fermented cod liver oil. Perhaps the next best thing is to have quality, whole food based supplements that may mimic the synergistic nature of a superfood (I’m thinking of brands like Standard Process and their various Cataplex suplements). And finally, although it may be useless for some things, like the creation of sulfate, there’s the intake of a straight up isolated Vitamin D3 supplement which still has measurable benefits as study after study has proven. (And of course the BAD option would be to take no supplements and eat a Standard American Diet and expose yourself regularly to environmental toxins while not having a healthy enough body to eliminate them.)

    Sometimes, we can’t let the good be the enemy of the ideal. And, of course, that means we should know what the ideal *is*”

  34. Its really hard when you live in the North Pole, seriously dont ever move to ND our winters reach -65F with the windchill

  35. Its really hard when you live in the North Pole, seriously dont ever move to ND our winters reach -65F with the windchill

  36. That does sound hard, Maria Castro. I’m sending an email to Dr. Seneff with some follow-up questions. One of them is whether sulfates can be stored in the body for long periods of time . . . make we need sunlight to make them but can do that more in spring/summer? I’m not sure. She’s super busy so I’m not expecting a response anytime soon, but I’ll let you know what I find out!

  37. I love ND but that is one of the things that is hard for me over here; however the rough winters do keep bugs away and crime low lol too cold to go steal anything ;) Summer time we stay outside as much as possible, love the summers here sun is out until 9-10pm sometimes!

  38. maybe not “make” – lots of typos today!

  39. Meg Bailey Gustafson via FB says:

    we are like you in Ann Arbor, and I have to take them. I can feel my energy drop if I’m not taking them. We are so sun starved. And sometimes the temps are too frigid, even if you could get a few cloudy rays. You’d be frost bit, and the only part of our body that sees the sun for about 6 mos of the year is our nose.

  40. [...] While it’s true that sunlight improves mood and helps us sleep better, prevents cancer, and cannot be replaced by supplements something else is also true: reckless sun exposure is [...]

  41. Baffled says:

    After going Paleo last fall and switching to pastured meats I noticed a drastic change in my skin chemistry. Although I live in New England, I’m English and used to burn very quickly. After the diet change, I couldn’t even tan never mind burn. I’ve added back some carbs to my diet so I’m mostly following a Primal diet at this point but still eating pastured meats. I’ve sat out in the sun whenever possible since the equinox for at least 30 minutes and sometimes for hours. I’m only now starting to notice a tan. I haven’t burned once this year.

    Here is the link to Dr. Seneff’s blog: http://stephanie-on-health.blogspot.com/

  42. Cheryl says:

    Dr. Mercola says that it takes 48 hours to absorb the vitD off of your skin so you should not use soap when you shower on areas with sun exposure. I wonder if this researcher has come to the same conclusion? Sorry if this is addressed somewhere in your blog and I missed it. Also in one of Mercola’s articles it states that you can only get UVB(which makes vit D) during certain times of the day. He lists a website where you can look up where you live and what times the UVB is shining. I though that was so helpful. Although he says they correct for daylight savings, someone in the comments says that it does not. So I’m kinda ify on the starting and ending times. Also…I did not know that glass filters out the UVB. So if you are behind glass you are only getting damaging rays. Really informative article…http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/26/maximizing-vitamin-d-exposure.aspx

  43. Lisa C says:

    I did not know about vitamin D sulfate! Great news that it’s in raw milk!

    For people who are fair-skinned: you don’t need as much sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, so I would just not expose your skin as much if you are concerned about burning. Ideally you would be fair-skinned in the higher latitudes and darker-skinned in the lower latitudes. If not, you’ll have to be more conscientious about your sun exposure.

    It seems to me that traditional people in northern climates were more often dairy cultures and also consumed seafood and fish liver oil. They would also still go out in the sun in winter but surely not as much as in the warmer months. They were also usually fairer-skinned people. Being a fair-skinned person in the Pacific Northwest, I tend to look at these cultures as an example for how to obtain enough vitamin D. I believe it’s still important to be aware of one’s personal needs though, especially considering that illnesses and toxins deplete the body of nutrients.

  44. I noticed a huge difference in my mood and energy levels after spending time out in the sun this spring, so there is definitely something to this line of thought. The most natural form is always the way to go – when you can -. We take our FCLO & vitamin D3 supplement but don’t notice nearly the same boost, and it felt like the adrenal fatigue that came over me in late fall disintegrated as the sun shone brighter. I used to tackle every nutrition aspect that I came across and beat it to death to squeeze out every last fact I could before I felt confident to move on it. I have now learned to trust my intuition and instinct to know what’s right for us. I think you may be on to something mama. :) And I agree that supplementing cannot be as useless as Dr. Seneff hypothesizes. It just depends on the source and the individual’s diet as a whole.

  45. [...] According to Kristen, this is one of those instances in which Vitamin D supplements cannot replace sunshine. Studies comparing fermented cod liver oi vs. sunlight show that magnesium absorption goes WAY up [...]

  46. While we agree, sun exposure is the best source to get your vitamin D, this idea that vitamin D sulfate is more important than just plain old vitamin D has little scientific backing. In fact, researchers in the 1980s looked for vitamin D sulfate in human breast milk and didn’t find any (Hollis et al 1981). Some of the biggest researchers in the field looked into the issue of vitamin D vs vitamin D sulfate in the 80s and dropped the topic moving forward, probably for good reason.

    Again, moderate, sensible but frequent sun exposure is ideal for many reasons (including vitamin D production), but to date, there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin D from a pill is any different than vitamin D from sun exposure. There have been studies, however, that have found beneficial effects of sun exposure independent of vitamin D. One such study found that sun exposure was independently protective against multiple sclerosis; though we know vitamin D is protective against MS, too.

    Announcing that, “…vitamin D supplements are useless” is misleading and a disservice to the public. How do we know? By the countless randomized controlled trials that have found benefits in supplementing with vitamin D. Just this past winter, researchers discovered that 3,000 IU of vitamin D/day during the wintertime reduced blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Are vitamin D supplements useless to a hypertensive patient? No.

    Another study came out that found 4,000 IU of vitamin D/day for a year reduced mortality five-fold in patients with cystic fibrosis. Are vitamin D supplements useless to cystic fibrosis patients? No. In fact, they might even be life saving.

    While we are sure Stephanie Seneff has the best of intentions, it’s important to be careful in what is publicly recommended. Since there hasn’t been a peer-reviewed paper published on vitamin D sulfate since 1995, it’s probably not necessary to stir the pot on this subject.

    -The Vitamin D Council

    • Nancy says:

      Excellent reply from Dr Cannell of The Vitamin D Council. He has a wonderful site with some of the best and latest information on Vitamin D– with home Vit D testing available.
      It is critical to test and not just assume your levels are adequate– even though you are on a sufficient diet and have sun exposure. There are many things that can interfere with metabolizing D– gut issues, fat malabsorption, thyroid, liver issues– conditions you may not realize you have.
      I would also refer the readers to sites with hundreds of studies on Vitamin D:
      Grassroots Health/ Vitamin D Action
      http://www.grassrootshealth.net They also have a home test kit for D…
      VitaminDWiki.com
      Also Stephanie did not notice this:
      Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture Products –maker of the Fermented Cod Liver Oil discloses in his assay that the D contained is mostly D2 and not D3. Chris MasterJohn of WAPF says there is much we do not know about Vitamin D– and Dave Wetzel agrees…

  47. [...] Dr. Stephanie Seneff – D vitamin forsker –  siger til Mommypotamus.com: [...]

  48. [...] Sunshine is the best way to get your vitamin D. [...]

  49. [...] Why Vitamin D Supplements Can’t Replace Sunshine « The Mommypotamus [...]

  50. Karen says:

    I recently found out I am severely Vit D deficient, and have been in the past as well. This time I’m searching for a way to correct the problem, instead of “bandaid it”. Thank you so much for providing this research and commentary Mommypotamus! I now feel like my prayers have been answered, and I have a good plan of how to get my body healthy. I’ll keep you updated. ;)

  51. [...] or applied directly to the skin. They do this not by blocking UV rays which help our bodies make Vitamin D sulfate and reduce our risk of breast, colon, prostate and many other cancers.  For an deeper look at why [...]

  52. [...] Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for maintaining strong healthy bones, a healthy immune system, and avoiding several types of cancer is a nutrient most people are deficient in. The precursors of vitamin D are formed when the skin comes into contact with sunlight. This is the most effective way to healthfully raise Vitamin D levels.  You can have your Vitamin D levels tested by your physician. There are many fat soluble supplements that can be used and the EWG, while encouraging adequate vitamin D levels to reduce the chances for skin cancer, encourages supplementation in their post about Vitamin D. Mommypotomus wrote a wonderful, well supported, article about how sunlight is the optimal way to reach and maintain proper vitamin D levels here. [...]

  53. Annie says:

    This is interesting information. However, I live on the CA/OR border where getting enough sunshine in the winter is a problem. I found out a few years ago that I was severely deficient in Vitamin D, so began using supplements. These supplements cured my depression as well as my chronic illnesses. Once my D levels were back to normal, I stopped being constantly sick with colds, flu, etc., and if I do get a cold a couple of times a year it is not nearly as severe or long lasting as then. So I would not discount the efficacy of Vitamin D. I’m all for getting nutrition through foods but in my case, that was not working.

  54. [...] and get to an unsafe level very quickly. Lastly, and most importantly, the D3 in supplement form isn’t the same as the D3 created by sunlight, and it acts differently on the body. There is no proof it provides [...]

  55. […] According to Kristen, this is one of those instances in which Vitamin D supplements cannot replace sunshine. Studies comparing fermented cod liver oil vs. sunlight show that magnesium absorption goes WAY up […]

  56. […] Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for maintaining strong healthy bones, a healthy immune system, and avoiding several types of cancer is a nutrient most people are deficient in. The precursors of vitamin D are formed when the skin comes into contact with sunlight. This is the most effective way to healthfully raise Vitamin D levels.  You can have your Vitamin D levels tested by your physician. There are many fat soluble supplements that can be used and the EWG, while encouraging adequate vitamin D levels to reduce the chances for skin cancer, encourages supplementation in their post about Vitamin D. Mommypotomus wrote a wonderful, well supported, article about how sunlight is the optimal way to reach and maintain proper vitamin D levels here. […]

  57. roberta says:

    I have a question, I read stephs information and I am curious is cholesterol sulfate and vitad3 the same substance? I don’t think I produce it with sun exposure, as I did the sunbathing as much as possible, developed a nice tan without using anything else and did not improve even following a lower carb diet with carbs that are whole and minimally processed I was careful not to wash off my oils for a day ot two before taking a bath, can you make cholesterol sulfate in your skin but not vitad3? vitad3 supplements have been helping but the problem is I have to mega dose on it. I keep an eye on my symptoms to make sure I don’t take too much vitad3, I take it on a empty stomach to avoid taking up to much calcium it has improved my symptoms of metabolic syndrome and hypoglycemic symptoms despite not being type 2. everytime I lower the dose for maintance to avoid taking to much my symptoms return after about 2 months. any suggestions or thought on this?

  58. Angie says:

    So, I read in the Permaculture Activist that you can get highly significant Vitamin D by sun-bathing the mushrooms you plan to eat. Would this be considered plant-based Vit. D 2 (well, is fungi really a plant?) or is this sun-based, and the vitamin D3 sulfate we want? Wouldn’t that be a win-win?

  59. […] out this awesome article Mommypotamus wrote about Vitamin D supplements and why she believes they are useless.  I do not agree with that […]

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