Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
You have heard the claims of thousands of different products that help with weight loss. Now you stand in the pharmacy aisle wondering if any of the supplements really work. As you gaze at all the different options, you remember that someone suggested vitamin D to you. Can vitamin D 50,000 IU really help you lose weight?
Vitamin D is a very important fat-soluble vitamin that is often overlooked by healthcare providers. This vitamin is useful for many conditions and research is indicating more benefits and more benefits all the time.
1. Is vitamin D really a vitamin?
A vitamin is defined as something that is essential for growth and nutrition, but can’t be made by the body. That is not the case for vitamin D, your body can actually make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. However, that does not typically produce enough vitamin D to meet the bodies needs. Therefore this critical compound must also be obtained through the diet.
Due to all of the functions it is involved in, vitamin D it is considered a compound necessary for survival. That is the reason it gets tagged as a vitamin.
Getting between 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure per day is a great way to boost vitamin D levels. As ultraviolet (UV) light is absorbed by the skin vitamin D is produced. It is important to keep in mind if you use sunscreen UV light is blocked. Therefore, the creation of vitamin D will not occur. It is important to weigh the risk of sun damage to the skin against the benefit of vitamin D that can be produced. Especially with the recommended 5 to 30 minutes of exposure is low. After that, get your sunscreen out!
2. What does Vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone and has many important functions in the body. As more research is done it seems that the body has receptors for vitamin D in almost all organs in the body. The table below lists the major functions.
|Create peptides that reduce stress.||Allows the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation.|
|Regulates parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium.||Prevents infections by viruses.|
|Reduce formation of new fat cells.||Reduces fat accumulation.|
|Increase testosterone levels, which could increase metabolism rates.||Increase serotonin levels, helping lift mood and promoting sleep.|
Clearly, the effects listed above would be seen as positive. The bad news?
It is estimated that up to 42% of people in the world are vitamin D deficient!
3. Could you have a deficiency of Vitamin D?
The farther you live from the equator, the more at risk you are for a vitamin D deficiency. As you can see below for those who live north of the 37 degrees latitude are at risk, especially during winter months. In fact, except in the summer the skin is actually producing very little vitamin D. Thus, setting you up for potential deficiency.
In addition to your skin producing vitamin D, it can be obtained through the foods you eat. However, not many foods contain vitamin D. Also, foods that contain vitamin D do not typically have large amounts. The table below shows some of the best sources of it.
|Mackerel||Fortified milk||Fortified cereals|
Who it at highest risk of deficiency?
Due to the lack of sun exposure and small amounts vitamin D in foods, deficiency is very common. According the the World Health Organization approximately 50% of the worlds population are deficient in vitamin D.
People who are especially at risk of deficiency include:
- People over age 65
- Obese people
- Those with dark skin
- Breastfed babies
- Those who live above 37 degrees latitude
The research is clear that vitamin D deficiency and obesity are linked. What is also coming to light is that correcting the vitamin D levels can promote weight loss.
Potential negative effects of deficiency
|High blood pressure||Asthma||Alzheimers disease|
|Depression||Autoimmune disease||Increased infection risk|
4. How to know if you have a vitamin D deficiency?
A simple blood test is all it takes to determine if you have a deficiency. Vitamin D lab tests look at 25-hydroxy vitamin D, which is the major way it is found in the blood. Blood levels are measured in nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood often abbreviated ng/ml.
The table below explains the levels and values for vitamin D blood levels.
|<12||Vitamin D deficient, resulting in rickets for children and osteomalacia in adults|
|12 to <20||Considered inadequate for bone and optimal health|
|≥20||Considered adequate for bone and overall health. Some doctors recommend levels closer to 50ng/ml.|
|>50||Typically considered a high level, however more and more levels up to 100 are being considered high|
How to get tested
The good news is that testing your vitamin D level is now easier than ever. There are several ways to get your level of vitamin D checked:
1. Have your doctor write you a prescription for an in person lab visit
This is the route most people are familiar with. See your doctor, have them tell you what to do and where to go. The only problem is then you have to see the doctor every time you need a test. Also, the lab they send you to may not be the cheapest way to get the result.
2. Order an online test & go to the lab
Companies such as HealthLabs.com allow you to select the lab you want then find a site that will offer the lab at the best price. You simply purchase the lab you want online. They email you a receipt that you take to the lab and they use it to determine what test to do. Healthlabs.com gets you shorter wait times than other patients who walk in and there is no insurance or referral needed.
3. Get an online test mailed to your home
Some companies make tests that are mailed to you. They come with specific and easy to understand directions for how to obtain the specimen needed. Once your done you seal up the sample and mail it to the lab. Then you get your results emailed to you and can be shared with your doctor. Making the process very simple.
5. Will taking vitamin D help me lose weight?
As noted earlier vitamin D is a hormone and it helps regulate other hormones in the body. Studies have shown that together with diet and exercise vitamin D supplementation can do the following:
Does vitamin D promote more weight loss in obese patients?
It has been shown that obese patients have lower blood levels of vitamin D than non obese. The belief is that obese people expose their skin to the sun less. It is also thought that the diet of obese people contains less vitamin D rich foods. These possibilities together with the fact that the heavier one is requires more vitamin D to reach a normal level increases the chance of deficiency.
There also seems to be a relationship between weight and blood levels of vitamin D. Once people start to lose weight they see vitamin D levels rise the more weight they lose. Therefore, the more weight you lose, the higher your blood levels and likelihood you will continue to lose weight. This eventually tapers off once people reach goal weights.
6. Can high doses of vitamin D cause weight loss?
If you or your doctor has tested and confirmed that your vitamin D levels are low, taking a supplement is a good next step. How do you know what to choose?
Over the counter options are available in lower strengths such as:
- 400 IU
- 800 IU
- 1000 IU
- 2000 IU
- 5000 IU
*IU represents International Units, which is a measure of how much vitamin D is in the product.
In some cases your doctor may recommend a high dose of 50,000 IU that is available by prescription only. You should only pursue this option if being monitored by your doctor.
Studies have shown that higher doses can be effective in weight loss. Keep in mind these doses do not need to be continued after blood levels of vitamin D return to normal levels. Once that happens supplementing with the smaller, more typical doses should suffice.
7. What is vitamin D 50,000 IU used for?
Typically vitamin D 50,000 IU taken once weekly for six to eight weeks is used to quickly replenish vitamin D deficiency. After that, another test should be preformed and use of a lower does supplement going forward.
Another use of 50,000 IU per week of vitamin D3 is helping with the muscle pain that has been associated with cholesterol medication. The drug class called statins have been some of the most widely prescribed drugs ever. However, they can cause muscle aches and pain. Once weekly doses of 50,000 IU vitamin D have been effective in reversing this side effect.
Finally, the 50,000 IU dose of vitamin D may be prescribed for patients that have problems absorbing it from their food. Any disease that causes problems with getting nutrients from food could set you up to be a candidate for higher doses. Some examples include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
- Lactose intolerance
- Prolonged antibiotic use
- Gastric bypass surgery patients
What is the difference in Vitamin D2 vs D3?
The 50,000 IU dose (and other doses) of vitamin D comes in two forms.
- D2 (ergocalciferol) – found mostly in plants and fungus
- D3 (cholecalciferol – found mostly in animals
The vitamin D your body produces in the skin is D3, which makes sense since we humans are animals as well. It is also why taking D3 or cholecalciferol is your best bet. D2 requires your liver to activate it, or change it into D3. For those who have liver problems, it would be especially important to take the D3 form.
8. How long does it take for vitamin D 50,000 IU to work?
The amount of time it will take for vitamin D 50,000 IU to increase blood levels varies. The typical timeframe is six to eight weeks. Most studies looking at vitamin D 50,000 IU for weight loss show similar timelines. The good news is that weight loss can continue even after blood levels are back to normal.
Keep in mind the time it takes will depend on many factors including:
- Amount of sun exposure
- Use of sunscreen
- Vitamin D in the diet
- Ability to absorb the supplement
- Exercise regimen
9. What dose should you take over the counter?
To determine what dose of a vitamin D supplement you should take we must start with the recommended daily allowances. These are set by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) that is part of the Institute of Medicine.
|0-12 months||400 IU||400 IU|
|1-69 years||600 IU||600 IU|
|>70 years||800 IU||800 IU|
Most doctors and pharmacist recommend supplementing with vitamin D if you have a blood test confirming low levels. Typically, those in at risk groups for deficieny can supplement as well with little risk.
They typical doses are between 400 IU’s to 2,000 IU’s daily. In some cases 4,000 IU’s per day has been suggested for weight loss. Remember that comes up to 28,000 IU per week which is still just over half of the prescription dose of 50,000 IU’s per week.
The amount required will vary from one person to the next based on several factors. That is why getting your blood level tested is a great idea, then you have something to base the dose off of.
Over the counter formulations are availalbe from numerous manufacturers. There are also several dosage forms, such as tablets, capsules and liquids. How do you choose the right one?
Picking a product
When it comes to buying vitamins you need to be careful. Not all products are made the same so buyer be aware! The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements the way they do prescription and over the counter drugs (OTC). Dietary supplements shockingly do not have to prove they are effective, safe and what the label says is actually what is in the bottle.
Therefore, to protect yourself when buying these products you should use USP verfied supplements. USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia and they set the standards for medications in the United States. Supplements that carry the USP verified mark contains the ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency amounts. This helps assure customers they are getting what they pay for.
There are two brands of vitamin D supplements that carry USP verification, they are:
|NatureMade 1,000 IU||Kirkland Signature|
|$0.04 cents per dose||$0.05 cents per dose|
10. What are the side effects of vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as a fat soluble vitamin. That simply means it is stored in fat cells and not in the blood like water soluble vitamins are. Therefore, you can build up vitamin D in the fat cells over time with extended use.
The good news!
Large studies have been done on high doses of vitamin D, such as 50,000 IU used for weight loss. Very few patients had blood levels that were higher than 50 ng/ml which is considered to be a high level. The best news is that in a study done over 10 years by the Mayo clinic only one patient out of nearly 20,000 exhibited signs vitamin D toxicity.
Even though the odds of side effects are very small you should always let your prescriber know that your taking vitamin D. Some of the signs of toxicity include:
- Increased calcium levels
- Kidney stones
- Heart rhythm problems
11. Should you take vitamin D?
Very few things in medicine are clear. There is almost always gray area where the risks must be weighed against the benefits. However, the research on vitamin D is abundantly clear. When used with proper diet and exercise, vitamin D supplementation can help people lose weight. This is especially true for obese patients, but benefits are likely there for overweight people as well.
In addition to weight loss the other positive effects are also clear. Due to low sun exposure for most people and lack of dietary vitamin D, taking a supplement of vitamin D3 is a easy recommendation.
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