Top UK scientist urges people to take vitamin D... - Thyroid UK

Thyroid UK
101,179 members115,377 posts

Top UK scientist urges people to take vitamin D supplements

Top UK scientist urges people to take vitamin D supplements

Geneticist Steve Jones, formerly a sceptic, says case for doing so is overwhelming

theguardian.com/society/201...

Though what should people do if they are unable to tolerate vitamin D supplements?

77 Replies
oldestnewest

I have to make do with the sun but I don't stress over my VitD level because it is always low and always has been 🤷‍♀️

1 like
Reply

Very light exposure to UV?

Reply

Yes, that is a possibility. But it is a lot more effort than throwing a capsule down your throat! And much more difficult to assess.

If you take, say, 5000 IU a day, you can expect to accumulate at a fairly steady rate. Even a timed UV lamp can be less predictable, and when we rely on the sun, who knows? :-)

Reply

A very poignant article. Thank you helvella. He has to be right about low levels of vitamin D in people. My Endo said there is an epidemic if his patients are anything to go by. Yes I know there are folk who can't take this supplemented and I'm not sure what the answer is. I do agree that people should be tested and treated for low levels not least of all as Osteoporosis seems to be on the increase as well as Rickets as mentioned. Regarding the effects of sunshine. I spend all summer in shorts pottering about in daily sunshine on Mallorca Island and my vit D levels never rise as a result. Supplementation is the only way I can raise it.

2 likes
Reply

That's very confusing. Are you an oddity in that? I assumed plenty of sun exposure would equal a measurable rise in D level. Do you get tanned from all that lovely Mallorcan sunshine?

2 likes
Reply

Well I'm not sure if I'm an oddity but this is my experience. I do just tend to expose my legs as they are rather tougher than the rest of me which tends to burn. I have very fair skin.

3 likes
Reply

That is a very sound approach the legs have a large surface area and it is best not to burn fair skin. I find I rarely burn if I have been able to gradually build up my exposure to the sun from the winter onwards. I can occasionally be caught out though. Can’t beat pottering in shorts in the sunshine 🌞

2 likes
Reply

I was working outdoors but even after a very sunny summer I still had severe Vit D deficiency. I took supplements that seemed to put it right. I find now if I even take one vit D3 tablet I get excruciating cramp in my calves feet and sometimes even my thighs so I leave it alone. I feel ok now - perhaps my levels are optimal now I am on NDT rather than levothyroxine - who knows. Could be a magnesium calcium imbalance?

1 like
Reply

That's interesting that you took them ok for a while and now can't. Any type of D supplements make me feel dreadful. I gave up trying a few years ago now.

3 likes
Reply

They may have given me cramp all along it was only much later I began to wonder if they might be provoking it. If can’t be the whole story because I still get odd bouts and I can’t blame vitD3 tablets for those. It certainly came on every night on the tables. It could be related to magnesium problems as it improved on taking magnesium malate. Quinine knocks it on the head in minutes.

Reply

I wonder if Hashi folk have a particular problem making vit D from sunshine ?????? We seem to have difficulty with just about everything else in life!

2 likes
Reply

Whenever you raise vitamin d 25(OH)D vitamin d levels your body is better able to absorb minerals from your diet.

Unfortunately modern processed foods tend to be higher in calcium but lower in magnesium than in previous generations and magnesium status has generally declined.

Most people are typically as magnesium deficient as they are vitamin d deficient. Typically we have a higher calcium to magnesium ratio and when we supplement with just vitamin d3 that ratio gets more our of balance.

To fully benefit from vitamin d3 we need more magnesium to ensure it's retention and activation. The paper "Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function" is free full text online and explains in greater detail.

If you could take 100mg magnesium with each meal and before bed that may well resolve the cramping. Excess calcium tends to tighten muscles and magnesium is required to relax them.

It is generally not a good idea to use calcium supplements together with vitamin d3 as when vitamin d levels rise above 100 nmol/l = 40ng/ml we should be able to get all our calcium from food sources which is much safer than supplemental calcium.

Magnesium glycinate is generally well tolerated and may help you sleep better if taken before bed.

Half teaspoon magnesium citrate powder dissolved in 2 litres water drink through the day provides 300mg elemental magnesium and this is what I do to total 400mg daily. Other powders such as mag malate, mag glycinate or mag taurate or mixes of all 3 are available and avoid the problem of "horse pills" that some people find hard to swallow.

Other forms of magnesium such as taurate or malate are fine, oxide is possibly the least popular.

Reply

Thanks for your really helpful and detailed reply taking a lot of guess work out of how much and when. My doctor did suggest I try magnesium supplements for the cramp but just said to buy some with no other advice on dose etc. I got some quinine from her I have no idea why it works but it does, I took it did years when I had undiagnosed hypothyroidism and was plagued by cramp; however I can’t imagine it is an ideal cure whereas magnesium is something our bodies require. I did get some horse pills with k3, calcium, mg and possibly other stuff, they were a real struggle to swallow. I gave up with them in the end, from what you say they were a bad idea anyway. I heard magnesium malate was less likely to cause stomach upsets and is derived from fruit or natural sources anyway. I should try them again because I am an old creaking gate with bakers cysts in my knees and arthritic this and that plus I have these painful annoying lumps in my toe joints that can make walking pure agony. As the skeleton is a plastic thing ie is not a fixed, unchangeable frame but dynamically remodels to suit one’s exertions I cannot see why beneficial change could not be instigated at any age if one knew how to initiate the change.

Reply

I'm outside a lot with animals and gardening and I don't use suncream but last summer I only raised my level to 30 and that's pretty good for me 😊

2 likes
Reply

It's bizarre isn't it. Makes me question the whole issue of measured D level being equated to sun exposure time. I have below range D - was 27 (50-175) when last tested in mid Feb -, but as I'm intolerant to supplements I don't bother testing it as a rule. I sort of assumed it would rise with sun exposure over the summer, but maybe it doesn't!

1 like
Reply

I can't tolerate any supplements either so I don't worry about it, I was just interested last year to see if the sun did make any significant difference, nope it didn't 🤔

1 like
Reply

Do you feel ok with it at that level?

Reply

Hubby and I both tested insufficient after four years in Crete. We both have Hashi's. It's sun between the hours of 11 & 3 that produces the D3 in the skin - when 40% is exposed - the time when most of us are heading for the shade. I dry off in the sun and then cover up ... 😎

2 likes
Reply

I’m pretty sure the epidemic of low Vit D is because of the sun cream scare tactics! A bit of early morning and late afternoon sun without cream would benefit everyone. Even my ginger girls can cope with that.

I had a low reading of 26 in Feb. Bought the Betteryou spray and now I’m up to 96 🥳

I’ve got my parents on it now too as their readings were low.

Reply

Also in the past more people had outdoor jobs and got higher exposure to daylight but I do agree I think the overuse of sun cream is creating a lot more problems than it solves. I have always believed sunshine is generally very good for us as long as burning in it is avoided. I was surprised to see a medical person advise a quick blast at midday as being ideal. Perhaps because most people are cooped up in offices all day it might be their only chance to get some decent sun and it would be less than 30 mins for most given hour dinner times are a quaint memory from the distant past. Plus you can’t be guaranteed of sun every day even in summer in the uk. I like to drink it up from dawn to dusk every single day the sun shines.

Reply

I agree about the sun screen scare...I know someone who won't let her children outside without a slathering of sunscreen, and a hat.....if there is a blink of sun

Reply

I'm certain there is more than a grain of truth in what you say.

Reply

What is the issue with people not tolerating supplements? I'm not doubting it, I just don't know anything about it and wondered why that is.

Reply

Yes, me too!

Reply

There are people who, though their vitamin D blood tests show them to be low (or very low), feel terrible if they take supplementary vitamin D.

They might get away with 200 IU - but don't tolerate the sorts of dose that would be required to lift their vitamin D levels in a sensible length of time. Doesn't seem to matter what form (D2 or D3), capsule, tablet, spray, even applied on skin for transdermal rather than oral.

I hope someone who suffers from this will jump in here to explain in their own words.

Baobabs

2 likes
Reply

Ah. I had to take massive doses of vitamin D due to a severe deficiency (4ng/ml) and some of my symptoms got worse before they got better. I was told this was pain caused by my bones "healing". I also got terrible foot cramps, but magnesium supplements cured that.

1 like
Reply

Interesting that adding magnesium stopped the cramp - Vit D3 gives me terrible cramps in my legs/feet.

1 like
Reply

Just did a quick search and there seems to be a concensus that "The enzymes that metabolize vitamin D within the body require magnesium."

So it seems taking large doses of vitamin D will deplete your magnesium and cause cramps.

Reply

Thanks for that really helpful info 😉

Reply

Hi helvella

I took 1000iu Vit d3 for a few days a couple of years ago and my usual Sunday 60m ride was the worst I have ever done!

This was because my leg muscles, especially the medialis became very stiff as I was pedalling along

However, at the time I didn't put 2 and 2 together and link the D with the stiff muscles

Then, prior to this Sunday's 60 m ride, I took 1000iu D again

And, yes, you've guessed it, the same stiff muscles as on that ride 2 years ago!

So, I shall just stick to getting my D from the 1g calcium/200iu D tablet that I take daily, from now on

I feel that I, like some who have posted here, cannot tolerate extra D?

Thank you

Alps holiday

Reply

If only we knew why we can't tolerate supplements, presumably there is a common ingredient included in all of them that some people ( me) cannot take.

1 like
Reply

I wonder if it's the crap they put into them - magnesium stearate, rice flour, gums, fillers and emulsifiers, etc. I am very careful to avoid any supplements with added nasties - and it's bloody hard work, I can tell you. You have to examine every ingredient - even the organic vegan stuff.

I use liquid D3 with MK7 K2 - at very large doses - and have no issues, despite having bowel disease and now IBS from the adrenal/thyroid issues. I also use Healthleadsuk for a lot of my supplements, and acerola cherry powder for my vit C (can't tolerate ascorbic acid at high levels). I tend to go for liquid minerals, as they don't seem to require additives for the most part. And I found a very good B12 spray that uses stevia to sweeten the taste.

1 like
Reply

I take nutri liquid vit d3 with k2 and a magnesium spray. I have been using it for two months now and I can honestly say I haven’t felt this well in years.

2 likes
Reply

I use the nutri one, too. If I try and lower the dose (cost!) I feel crap within days.

Reply

Yes I’m going to stick with this brand now and although it’s only a small bottle it does last well doesn’t it. I take 5/6 drops a day. I’m having to self medicate due to getting no help from my gp.

Reply

My GP is pretty crappy, too. I've been self-medicating for years with bowel disease - cannabis oil works better than all the other toxic rubbish they gave me for decades. Just wish I'd taken responsibility for my own health a long time ago - but we're brought up to trust the medical 'experts'.

1 like
Reply

I am one who isn’t able to tolerate Vitamin D supplements. I’ve tried multiple brands and have paired it with Mk4 and Mk7 and still feel awful on it.

1 like
Reply

Have you tried the Nutri liquid one? I put mine in my fruit smoothie - and I have VERY high doses. 2-3 droppers full (I think the dose is a few drops). Might be worth a go.

Reply

I know a woman who can't tolerate D caps because most are made from lanolin & she's allergic. Also read that after 40, our ability to make D from sunshine greatly decreases, if that applies to anyone who posted.

3 likes
Reply

That is a perfectly reasonable explanation for some. But I do not think it would apply to those who cannot tolerate vitamin D2. (Apparently usually produced from yeast or mushrooms.)

1 like
Reply

That’s interesting I find lanolin quite irritating to my skin, and ones guts are from the same origin as the skin. Maybe in very sensitive individuals it causes the D3 to be intolerable. Can they make it from other sources I wonder - oh I just read TedHutch below, amazing it can be synthesised from lichen and you can buy it - sounds interesting. It also ties in with the great unwashed discussion earlier if its in lanolin that might be why washing our bodies gets rid of it as I presume we must have our own version of lanolin to keep the skin and hair oiled and water resistant if that is what lanolin does!

Reply

Vit D3 is made from lanolin from sheep. Vit D2 is plant derived.

Reply

Unfortunately vitamin d2 is ergocalciferol which isn't the natural human form. Using vitamin d2 replaces the human form and is not retained in the body for as long nor is it as effective.

We should Stop prescribing or recommending ergocalciferol vitamin d2

this paper explains why.

IT’S TIME TO STOP PRESCRIBING ERGOCALCIFEROL

drive.google.com/file/d/1_5...

If we choose to avoid vitamin d3 sourced from lanolin there is an alternative sourced from lichen. It readily available from the online providers if you search for VITASHINE. It's a bit more expensive than lanolin sourced but a better alternative to ergocalciferol which has been linked to amyloid aggregation while cholecalciferol is known to clear amyloid from the brain.

1 like
Reply

I read recently that vit D from the sun takes 24 hours to be absorbed and a shower will lose it.Sounds daft but is it?

Reply

A quick response suggests there is an issue. The Vitamin D Council has this page:

vitamindcouncil.org/washing...

Not sure whether there has been further research since then?

1 like
Reply

Must have read it there . We are told sun is better than pills etc - but maybe not if we wash every night .Ironic. I still have a tan on my legs from last November but will have to wait another six months to renew it according to my oncology doc. as flying is a good way of getting infections and in the meantime I have to keep out of the sun .Relying on D3 spray.

Reply

What a curious discovery best to be one of the great unwashed then 😂🤣😂 I worked for an organisation where quite a few coworkers refused to wash at all 😳 for ethical reasons the rest of us called laziness! Clearly they were on to something with their shirt collars to make you cringe 😱 they do say synthetic fibres from clothes washing are destroying the oceans they did not appear to bother with those either. I suppose we must be self cleaning but I like a nice hot bath myself.

1 like
Reply

There was an old saying - too much washing weakens you ! Now we know why 😊 Also too much cleansing removes important bacteria that live in harmony with us and with the gut ... so much to think about !

3 likes
Reply

Not just Vit D to ponder! I wonder what a safe frequency of bathing might be to preserve at least some of these important chemicals and microbes.

1 like
Reply

Hi All I also don't tolerate D3 but recently I was put on the large dose for 4 weeks and had no problem. Regarding " SUN" i was told not to use sun cream, use moisturiser and sprinkle on baby powder, in this way you don't burn and absorb the sun. Also do not wear sun glasses as vit D is absorbed through our "IRIS"

Reply

Also do not wear sun glasses as vit D is absorbed through our "IRIS"

I find that very difficult to believe. A part of our body that is typically just 11 to 13 mm across seems unlikely to be significant to whole-body vitamin D - though there is a possibility it affects vitamin D in just the eye.

3 likes
Reply

It's clearly ridiculous and dangerous. Everyone should protect their eyes from UV rays. Sunglasses, always.

2 likes
Reply

Given there are 633 new cases of macular degeneration cases per million in the UK per annum does this warrant everyone wearing sunglasses? If you have relatives with it it is 4x more likely, but 2.6% seems like quite low odds to me tho I goes up a bit with age. My problem is since hypothyroidism I need much more light to actually see clearly even with glasses or contact lenses (had it totally without now) so wearing sun glasses for me is not helpful to me seeing properly. I might try those reactive ones in my next set of glasses to see if that gets around my vision issue. My family have some glaucoma but not in my branch and no macular degeneration. It sounds pretty horrendous but I may never get it and my desire to see clearly is very strong especially in heavy traffic on my bicycle and in my job.

Reply

I have worn reactive glasses for the last 15 years and still have early AMD and early cataracts - SIGH !

1 like
Reply

I’m sorry to hear that Marz. I presume it is still important to wear the reactive glasses or things would be worse. I read sometimes the early sort does not develop and it can even improve with some degree of healing of the eye. Fingers crossed for you. I think I will try some in my next glasses.

1 like
Reply

Actually, a lot of spectacle lenses substantially reduce or eliminate ultra-violet. (Their design and fit, of course, can impact of how effective they are - as well as the material the lenses are made from.)

Reply

Good to know! The point about always protecting your eyes from UV still stands.

Reply

What’s the score with contact lenses I wonder. They could, in theory, protect the whole caboose.

Reply

Unlikely. There is a considerable area not covered by standard contact lenses. (I know some are much larger, especially ones intended for swimming.

But for the full picture, check each specific product you are interested in. They could vary hugely.

Reply

So the whites of the eyes are also involved not just the iris and pupil. Will see what if any mine have. Never knew there were swimming contact lenses - boy they must take some getting in tho I suppose a lozenge shape might be ok, if that’s how they work.

1 like
Reply

Good news on the harmful sun ray blocking - my contact lenses filter out 70% uva and 95% uvb.

1 like
Reply

This article seems to think it might be possible for cells in the eye to directly produce VitD with uv exposure:

In discussion section:

This means ocular cells may be able to synthesize vitamin D3 directly on exposure to sunlight. However, it should be noted that the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends protection of the eye from long hours of direct sunlight, which may contribute to cataract and cancer formation.

iovs.arvojournals.org/artic...

Reply

Advice not to wear sunglasses is downright dangerous. Macular degeneration could be caused by that!

1 like
Reply

I understand, we don't need to look at the sun directly. When we do then it becomes dangerous.

Reply

Macular degeneration doesn't need anyone to look directly at the sun.

It is important to protect your eyes from blue and ultraviolet (UV) light all year round, not just in the summer. There are three types of ultraviolet radiation (UVR): A, B and C. UVC is generally blocked by the earth’s atmosphere, however, 90% of UVA and UVB reaches us.

Most people are aware of the damage UV light can do to the skin, but not to the eyes. Wearing sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat or cap helps to protect your eyes. When choosing sunglasses, look for a European CE mark or British Standard BSEN 1836:2005 to ensure good quality lenses. Lenses with insufficient UV protection are more harmful than not wearing sunglasses at all. Around 80% of damage from UV and blue light occurs before the age of 18, so it’s important children also wear hats and sunglasses.

Close-fitting or wraparound frames stop more sunlight getting to your eyes. Alternatively an ‘overshield’, with built-in sides and brow shields, can offer a lot of protection. Clear UV filters can also be added to ordinary prescription spectacles and even contact lenses.

Blue light

Blue light is responsible for the haze on a bright, sunny day. It increases dazzle, glare and blur for some people with macular conditions. Many people with macular conditions find that dark lenses reduce their level of vision. Blue blocking lenses reduce glare without making everything darker. Blue light tends to make images hazier, so blue blockers sharpen images and improve contrast. Blue blocking lenses are usually yellow or orange, although other tints can be added to improve their appearance. Some people use paler, yellow lenses for indoor use because they work well in artificial light and darker lenses outside. The lenses can be ordered from many mail order companies, low vision services, sensory impairment teams and resource centres for visually impaired people.

Coping with glare

Some people find that bright white paper can cause glare when they are reading. To overcome this you could try using transparent plastic ‘overlay’ sheets (your optician or low vision specialist can help you find the best colour for you) or using a typoscope. To reduce computer screen glare look for the ‘alternative view’ settings to change to a yellow background with black text, a black background with yellow text or a black background with white text. Lighting at home should be bright but even to help with glare.

macularsociety.org/sun-prot...

2 likes
Reply

I have macular degeneration and cataract in one eye and glare is a huge problem, I have to wear dark glasses even on non sunny days but the yellow orange lense tints sound interesting, I might just have to invest in yet another pair of specs 🙄

2 likes
Reply

There are quite a few overglasses available - some quite inexpensive.

I have some polarised ones I use (sometimes) when cycling. And I got some yellow ones for my mother who did suffer macular degeneration.

Reply

Thanks, I'll do some googling. I'm hoping after cataract op the glare won't be so bad but apparently I will still need to wear shades, just one thing after another 😞

1 like
Reply

I think they are worth a go. My cycling ones need to be cheap so when they get scratched or lost, it isn't too important.

If they are wonderful you can start caring about what they look like as well! :-)

1 like
Reply

I think downright dangerous needs some qualification (see my comment above to whaleroad) being in traffic not able to see properly strikes me as downright dangerous. Although splendid many years ago my cycling sunglasses (they are top notch ones not some cheap rubbish) are now a liability as I cannot see properly with them anymore, I need stronger light. I simply don’t believe everyone should wear sunglasses or that not to do so is a sign of irresponsibility and macular disease and blindness will be an inevitable consequence. It is not supported by the statistics I can find.

1 like
Reply

Having witnessed my father’s sight diminish to almost nil through both wet and dry age related macular degeneration I have spent some time researching causes and there is no doubt that the macular can be irreversibly damaged by exposure to light.

Giving advice not to wear sunglasses is irresponsible at best, dangerous at worst because as I said - it COULD cause macular degeneration.

Reply

It may be a factor in the disease, which if you have the misfortune to get is pretty devastating. The fact it affects those of European descent more prevalently than other races is interesting - levels of sun exposure cannot be the whole story but the genetic response to coping with lower light levels strikes me as of importance, and genetics appear to be by far the most important factor. I can find no reference that states sunlight levels are directly linked or proven to cause it. That is not to say such a link may exist and has yet to be elucidated. This study (the only one I could find of relevance) can find no clear link and research appears to be inconclusive or contradictory. I have no idea of the quality of research in the first place of course:

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articl...

Mind you having read everything I am glad my contact lenses offer high. uv protection and I will get some reactive lenses in my next glasses. I agree it is dangerous not to wear protection if you have it in the family or are at high risk of getting it or show signs of it developing, otherwise I hold with my previously stated opinion.

1 like
Reply

I read of a study of moisturisers that each promised to guard against UVA and UVB rays. Six of the twenty-nine tested offered no UVA filter, and of the twenty-three that did offer protection, many had very low amounts of the active ingredients, with no correlation between price and protection - the most expensive brand of moisturizer tested offered no UVA filter at all. An Indian study looking at the sun protection capabilities of talc showed that it has a mean SPF factor of only 1.29, and that was due to its low zinc oxide content. So I don't think you can depend on either products for protection against burning.

If you ingested a large dose of D3 for 4 weeks without a problem, doesn't that indicate that you do tolerate it?

1 like
Reply

It depends on the which D3 you have I mean the manufacturers.

Reply

This is a really good general article about Vitamin D

drruscio.com/sun-exposure-a...

Trials by the National Technical University of Athens and Swiss Research Centre Pharmabase found that absorption of of vitamin D via an oral spray was at least 50% faster and more effective than via traditional tablets or capsules, so maybe liquid Vitamin D or the Betteryou sprays are a better option than capsules or tablet.

This might be helpful too: drugs.com/mtm/cholecalcifer...

Vitamin D should really be classified as a hormone rather than a vitamin, and is fat-soluble, so any supplementation may take a while to have an effect.

1 like
Reply

I take mine with a high fat meal - it's meant to help absorption. Dr Coimbra has a huge amount of info on vitamin D3. His clinic in Brazil treats and often cures many diseases with extremely high D3 supplementation - MS being his specialist condition. There are lots of clinics run by Drs trained under Coimbra all over the world - although sadly not in the UK. But I doubt there are many people who know more about vitamin D than him.

1 like
Reply

Thanks that was a very interesting read!

Reply

You may also like...