As a health advocate and author of the vitamin D book Defend Your Life, I field a lot of questions about vitamin D supplementation. I find that many people are specifically unaware of the importance of vitamin D3 to their health. Moreover, they need guidance about how to best supplement with vitamin D3.

With these observations in mind, I offer five (5) thoughts about how to select and take vitamin D3 supplements.

Vitamin D3 is the Only “Real” Vitamin D
First and foremost, there is only one truly effective vitamin D form. It is called vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is the bioidentical substance that our bodies recognize to perform essential health functions that include strengthening bones to preventing types of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and other serious medical conditions.

For decades, a less effective form called vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, has been used in supplements as well as food and beverage fortification. Vitamin D2 contains synthetic compounds that are chemically altered and not well recognized by the body. Despite these facts, vitamin D2 can still be found in enriched foods and beverages as well as multi-vitamins and other supplements.

Burgeoning medical research strongly suggests that vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2. For example, the results of a randomized placebo-controlled trial, published in a September 2013 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, demonstrated that vitamin D3 supplementation increased vitamin D levels in healthy adults more than vitamin D2 supplementation. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that vitamin D2 supplementation in healthy adults was associated with a decrease in vitamin D levels! No wonder I often learn of people who have had no success with prescribed vitamin D, which is usually vitamin D2.

Bottom line: read carefully ingredient labels on vitamin supplements and enriched food and beverages to ensure you are buying D3 – the only “real” vitamin D!

Beware of Prescription Vitamin D
Misperceptions about treating vitamin D deficiency abound among medical practitioners and their patients. When treating patients for almost any medical condition, many conventional medical professionals “automatically” write prescriptions – the perceived “holy grail” for effective treatment. In turn, patients usually salute smartly by taking the prescription. However, in the case of treating vitamin D deficiency, beware of prescriptions.

At least in the United States, vitamin D deficiency is often treated with a prescription for “vitamin D.” Guess what? The prescribed vitamin D contains the less effective form of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) that I addressed above. Patients are typically advised to take one prescribed 50,000 international units (IU) capsule a week, for about 8 to 12 weeks.

Most patients however are completely unaware that prescribed vitamin D2 comprises synthetic compounds that are chemically altered and not well recognized by the body. In my opinion taking a vitamin D prescription is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; the square peg simply does not fit! Prescribed vitamin D2 most likely will not improve your levels. In other words, your vitamin D deficiency will not be effectively treated. You most likely will not feel better and will be wasting your time and money.

Bottom line: empower yourself with knowledge about vitamin D. Why take an ineffective vitamin D2 prescription, when quality vitamin D3 supplements are widely available at online and retail stores?

Vitamin D3 Soft Gels and Liquids Are Better Absorbed
Vitamin D is dissolved in fat. Therefore, vitamin D3 supplements in soft gel or liquid form are absorbed better than chalky tablets or chewable, fructose-laden supplements.

Bottom line: select an oil-based, vitamin D3 supplement such as soft gels or liquid drops.

How Much Daily Vitamin D3 Should I Take?
Your daily dose of vitamin D3 depends on the amount of vitamin D3 circulating in your body. Taking a simple blood test called 25(OH) D provides a starting point for vitamin D3 supplementation. Vitamin D testing may be conducted by your healthcare practitioner. Home test kits also are available online.

After learning your vitamin D3 levels, adjust, ideally in concert with your medical professional, your daily dose of an oil-based, vitamin D3 supplement according to your test results. Consider monitoring your levels every six months.

If you wish to skip the blood test (at least for now), you can consider taking 2,000 to 5,000 IU a day, unless you have developed sarcoidosis or specific granulomatous diseases.

Bottom line: a simple blood test called 25(OH) D serves as a guide as to your daily dose of a vitamin D3 supplement.

When is the Best Time to Take a Vitamin D3 Supplement?
Now that you have a bottle of vitamin D3 oil-based supplements containing at least 2,000 IU in strength, when is the best time of day to take them? As vitamin D is fat soluble, the best time to take your vitamin D3 supplement is right after your fattiest meal of the day. Good fats such as olive oil, egg yolks, olive and fish will facilitate the absorption of vitamin D3 in your body so you can Defend Your Life [hyperlink].

Bottom line: the best time to take your vitamin D3 supplement is immediately after your fattiest meal of the day.

Totally bottom line: Vitamin D3 supplementation is easy, effective, and relatively inexpensive. Please be patient while attaining adequate vitamin D3 levels. The health benefits are worth the wait.

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