What Is The Best Vitamin D3 Supplement? A Look At The Research

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[Last updated 25th October, 2018]

Vitamin D deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the Western world.

This is a huge concern when you consider it benefits bone strength, mental health, (potentially) cancer risk, and more.

Vitamin D supplementation has emerged as a convenient and cost-effective solution. This article explores the different types available and the best vitamin D supplement for you.

The world’s most common deficiency

Vitamin D: The world’s most common deficiencyVitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (mixes or dissolves in fat), which means it can be stored in body fat for an extended length of time.

It actually acts as a hormone and is produced by our cholesterol, as long as we get an adequate amount of UV light exposure (from the sun) on our skin (1).

But due to modern office-based lifestyles, coupled with those living in colder climates, sun exposure on its own is no longer enough. In fact, studies show that up to a massive 41% of US adults are vitamin D deficient (2).

Considering that food is not a significant source, it’s no surprise that vitamin D is the (Western) world’s most common nutrient deficiency, with magnesium deficiency a close second (3).

Summary: Studies estimate that over 40% of adults are vitamin D deficient, largely due to our modern indoor lifestyles.

Two main types of vitamin D supplement

Two main types of vitamin D supplementVitamin D supplementation is thought to benefit numerous aspects of health. This includes bone strength, immunity, mental health, metabolic health, and maybe even cancer risk.

There are two types important to humans:

  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): Found in plant foods, namely some mushrooms.
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): Found in animals, like fatty fish and egg yolks.

Both are converted into the “active” type in the body (calcitriol) when exposed to UV light from the sun.

Tablets, capsules or liquid form?

Vitamin D supplements are available in 3 common forms:

  • chewable tablet
  • capsules
  • emulsified oil drops.

A 12-week study comparing their effectiveness found that all 3 are safe and effective, but only those using chewable tablets or capsules obtained sufficient vitamin D levels (4).

Summary: Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are the two types important to humans. They are available as a supplement in several different forms, but tablets and capsules appear the most effective.

The best vitamin D3 supplement and dosage

The best vitamin D3 supplement and dosageResearch indicates the human body prefers to utilise vitamin D3 over D2 (5, 6).

Numerous studies have also found vitamin D3 supplementation to be more effective than D2, yet zero studies have found D2 to be superior (7).

Based on the weight of evidence it makes sense to choose vitamin D3, and you can find a good range on Amazon (full disclosure: this is an affiliate link).

I recommend this vitamin D3 supplement, which is a soft-gel capsule. It contains 2,000 UI per capsule and has hundreds of positive buyer reviews.

Recommended dosage

The standard dose for vitamin D3 supplementation is 1,000‑2,000 IU (International Unit) per day. According to Examine.com, this is sufficient to meet the needs of most of the population.

The safe upper limit is said to be 4,000 IU (100 micrograms) per day (8).

Note these are general recommendations. You should seek your doctor’s advice before taking any supplement- especially if you have other pre-existing medical conditions or use medication.

Summary: Vitamin D3 in a tablet or capsule is likely the most effective type and form of supplement. The standard dose is 1,000-2,000 IU per day, but your individual could vary significantly.

Extra important considerations

Extra important considerations for vitamin D supplement usageThere are several commonly overlooked factors to consider before you supplement and while you supplement:

  • Vitamin D supplements should be taken daily with meals or a food source that contains fat.
  • Vitamin D supplements are known to interact with steroid medications, weight loss drugs and certain cholesterol-lowering drugs. These may inhibit the absorption of vitamin D (9, 10, 11).
  • Vitamin D is not the cure all solution. In some health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, sun exposure improved symptoms but vitamin D supplementation did not. This suggests researchers will discover more pieces to this puzzle (12, 13).
  • Vitamin D and calcium supplementation seem to complement each other. This could be why combination treatment may be additionally beneficial in some aspects of health, including blood pressure and cancer risk (14, 15).
  • Vitamin D may complement vitamin K2 supplementation as both share similar roles and mechanisms when it comes to heart and bone health (16).
  • Maintaining adequate magnesium levels also appears to be important for the function of vitamin D.

Remember that no nutrient acts in isolation, and no one supplement is a cure-all for your health problems.

Supplements should be used as a tool to support a healthy diet and lifestyle, not replace it.

This article explores the research behind different types of vitamin D, and explains what is the best vitamin D supplement for you.

About Joe Leech, Dietitian (MSc Nutrition & Dietetics)

Joe Leech is a university-qualified dietitian from Australia.

He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in exercise science, followed by a Master's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2011.

Learn more about him on the About page.

19 responses to “What Is The Best Vitamin D3 Supplement? A Look At The Research”

  1. There are so many companies making vitamins and they are not regulated by FDA. It is difficult to find out which one is the best. I have been using Mykind Organics for the past 3 months. I am thinking to see ” is this the best to continue ? or to change. I do not know how to assess this matter. Please let me know. Dr. Blair. 516-710-3010

  2. The best way to tell how effective a supplement is, would be to have lab work done before and after you start taking it.

    • How long after you start taking D3 supplements should you have your blood levels retested? How long should it take to see better results? Thank you!

  3. I am a veteran, have always had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and thyroid disease. I felt pretty good even though these conditions were there and I am 70 years old. I was even planning a surf trip after building up my upper chest muscles so I could paddle through the breakwater . My Doctor at the VA hospital prescribed 50,000 I use of vitamin D a week . Shortly after I had a heart attack. After going on blood thinners and cholesterol medication I feel like a complete different person . My muscles ache, I am weak, I have many gout attacks in a week, I seem to have a shortness of breath, and even though I try to stay active nothing seems to work . My hips hurt, as well as my knees and it’s hard to walk up and down stairs.
    Just six months ago I was running, working out on a weight machine, and doing other strenuous activities with no problem at all . It almost seems like the 50,000 a week units for almost 6 months has killed me .

    • That’s awful. If this all started after the high vitamin d supplementation it seems as tho that has to be the cause. That’s an extremely high dosage. Are you still taking it? I would also do some research into a ketogenic diet. Dr.Fung is a great resource for that and also Dr. Berg. Many people have gotten off all of their medications and healed their bodies. Blessings to you!

    • It probably isn’t the Vitamin D, it is more likely the blood thinners and cholesterol medication that is killing your health. I refuse to take those medications after researching and discovering the dangerous side effects of those drugs. Everyone I know who started taking those drugs had a rapid decline in their health.

      • I had severe night pains that effected various parts of my legs and my hips. The pains felt like they were in my bones. Doctors could not explain them because I was healthy otherwise. Througb the process of supplement elimination and adding back one at a time, I learned that vitamin D3 at 5 to 6000 iu daily was the sole cause. I now take 1 to 2000 and not even daily. My blood levels test within the optimal range. Several years ago i took blood thinners for a year without aide affects. Good luck to yoi.

      • I agree. I had aches and quit statin and everything went away. I feel great, but my cholesterol is high. I would rather feel great than worry about the high cholesterol. I try to watch my diet.

        • Taking statins without Co-Q 10 can cause severe muscle pain and weakness. Co-Q 10 is made naturally by the body and depleted by statins. I personally do not like statins, but you have to take a statin you must take Co-Q 10 with it .

    • Have you had any follow up on this? I would like to know more… I would find someone outside of the VA especially if the VA Doctor did not have some lab test that supported a need for 50000 UI of D3. Also, I would look at the prescribed drugs side effects. I have taken 3x 5000 UI a day for more than a month without any problems (105000/week).

    • Dear Eliot i feel so sorry to heard your story. My question is: if you where feeling so good why did you go to the doctor? it seems that the 50,000 UI shocked your system.and it caused an imbalance creating acidity ( or affecting your kidneys) hence the gout !! now try to recuperate your strength through eating a healthy organic diet with patience and no stress you could be like before….CHANGE your doctor !

    • I’m so sorry this happened to you. You would think your doctor would be very concerned at this outcome. I’ve never heard of anyone taking 50000 iu of D3. I agree with others, that amount of anything would probably throw your system out of whack. Please ask for a new doctor.

      This is anecdotal but my mother-in-law broke her hip and the team helping her after her hip operation, found out her doctor had prescribed about 13 Rx’s even blood pressure meds! They took her off of everything even the blood pressure meds and she’s 95 and isn’t taking any medications now. She was not on blood pressure meds caused by obesity either. She was normal weight. She didn’t need any of the 13 medications that had been prescribed to her!

      If you can afford it, you should find a holistic doctor who specializes in supplements and also how they react with pharm medications. I don’t think it’s surprising when doctors make mistakes with supplements because it takes years to research and study supplements and few doctors can afford to put in the time with their schedules. They put their study time into pharmaceuticals.

      My gyn who is supposed to be a mid-life specialist (at a big research hospital) has NO clue about vitamins or supplements. She’s also reads my bone density test results and unfortunately she gives out wrong advice on bones. She only recommends calcium. I can’t take calcium, it doesn’t sit well. So, on my own, I researched and started a regiment of D3 2000 a day along with K2 and my Dex scan showed bone growth. She was surprised and yet she didn’t even ask me if I was doing anything different. I told her about the D3 and K2 and she said nothing.

      I have asked other women if they’ve been told about D3 and K2 from their doctors and all of them have said, ‘no’.

      But my doctor is an expert on Pharmaceutical drugs! The Pharm Reps are always in the halls of this office chatting up the nurses while waiting to talk to the doctors. The system is unbalanced in this regard. Supplements should not be ignored by the medical community. Some supplements work and are less harmful (and less expensive) than pharmaceuticals and it’s a disservice to ignore the research.

    • I can’t recall which meds I was taking for high cholesterol but the first one I was on made my hips hurt so bad I could hardly get out of my car. I would consult your doctor and get on another med for cholesterol and see how that does.
      Hope you find relief.
      Paul
      57 yrs young

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