For Optimal Health, Make Sure You Have a Vitamin D Level of 60 ng/mL
- Vitamin D is involved in the biology of all the cells and tissues in your body, including your immune cells. Your cells need the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside
- While the American Medical Association considers 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) sufficient, a compelling body of research suggests 40 ng/mL is the cutoff for sufficiency and that 60 to 80 ng/mL is an ideal level for health and disease prevention
- Seventy-five percent of American adults and teens are deficient in vitamin D, based on a sufficiency level of 30 ng/mL. Since 30 ng/mL is still on the low end, most are bound to have insufficient levels for optimal health
- Avoiding all sun exposure to lower your risk of skin cancer will raise your risk of internal cancers and many other health problems instead. A vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL lowers your risk of cancer by 67 percent, compared to having a level below 20 ng/ml
- A vitamin D level above 60 ng/mL lowers your breast cancer risk by more than 80 percent, and a level of 40 ng/mL lowers the risk of premature birth by 60 percent. There’s also a strong inverse relationship between vitamin D and other cancers, including colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cancer killer in the U.S.
Thousands of studies have been done on the health effects of vitamin D, and research shows it is involved in the biology of all the cells and tissues in your body, including your immune cells. Your cells actually need the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside. This is one of the reasons why vitamin D has the ability to impact such a wide variety of health problems — from fetal development to cancer.
Conventional Vitamin D Recommendations Are Too Low for Disease Prevention
Unfortunately, despite being easy and inexpensive to address, vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic around the world. A simple mathematical error may also deter many Americans and Canadians from optimizing their vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a mere 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day for adults.
As pointed out in a 2014 paper,1 the IOM actually underestimates the need by a factor of 10 due to a simple mathematical error, which has never been corrected. Moreover, the goal of this recommendation is merely bone health, not optimal health and chronic disease prevention.
Similarly, while the American Medical Association considers 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) sufficient, a compelling body of research suggests 40 ng/mL is at the low end of sufficiency,2 with 30 ng/mL being the rock bottom for the prevention of common diseases such as heart disease,3diabetes,4 lung disease5 and more.6,7,8 An ideal level for health and disease prevention is actually between 60 and 80 ng/mL.9
Moreover, according to a study in Anticancer Research,10 it would require 9,600 IUs of vitamin D per day to get a majority (97.5 percent) of the population to reach 40 ng/mL — a far cry from 600 IUs.
That said, GrassrootsHealth — through its D*Action study — has found a sixfold variability in achieved serum levels,11 meaning one person taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D per day may achieve a level of just 20 ng/mL while another is able to reach a level of 120 ng/mL taking the same amount. This is why it’s so important to get your vitamin D level tested at regular intervals.
According to data published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,12 75 percent of American adults and teens are deficient in vitamin D, based on a sufficiency level of 30 ng/mL. If the sufficiency cutoff were to be moved to 40 or 60 ng/mL, deficiency rates in the U.S. would likely be in the high 90 percent bracket. Even with a sufficiency level of 30 ng/mL, 97 percent of African-Americans and 90 percent of Mexican-Americans are deficient in this crucial nutrient.
Most People Are Vitamin D-Deficient, Placing Them at Increased Risk of Cancer
Unfortunately, while many health professionals recommend total sun avoidance to avoid skin cancer, this strategy raises your risk of internal cancers instead. Hardly a fair trade! Numerous studies have shown people with higher vitamin D levels have a far lower risk of a wide variety of internal cancers.
Generally speaking, research has shown that once you reach a serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL, your risk for cancer diminishes by 67 percent, compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less.13,14,15,16,17,18,19 Research shows most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL, and the optimal level for cancer protection has been identified as being between 40 and 60 ng/mL.
Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it,20,21 and this includes melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.22,23 There’s also evidence it can improve treatment outcomes. For example, adding vitamin D to the conventional treatment for pancreatic cancer was found to boost the effectiveness of the treatment.24
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Colorectal Cancer
Most recently, researchers found an inverse relationship between vitamin D and colorectal cancer,25which is the third leading cancer killer in the U.S. The vitamin D levels of 5,700 colorectal cancer patients in the U.S., Europe and Asia were compared to 7,100 cancer-free controls. Here, a vitamin D level of 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L) or less was considered a deficiency state; 20 to 25 ng/mL (50 to 62.5 nmol/L) was considered sufficient for bone health. Far higher levels were associated with cancer protection:
- People with a vitamin D level of 12 ng/mL or below had a 31 percent higher risk for colorectal cancer compared to those with levels between 20 and 25 ng/mL
- Those with levels between 30 and 35 ng/mL had a 19 percent reduced risk for colorectal cancer
- Those with levels between 35 and 40 ng/mL had a 27 percent reduced risk
- For each 10 ng/mL increase in circulating vitamin D, the risk for colorectal cancer was reduced by 19 percent in women and 7 percent in men
Coauthor Marji L. McCullough commented on the results, saying,26 “This study adds new information that agencies can use when reviewing evidence for vitamin D guidance and suggests that the concentrations recommended for bone health may be lower than would be optimal for colorectal cancer prevention.” Another study27 published in 2015 found women with vitamin D concentrations of at least 30 ng/mL had a 55 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who had a blood level below 18 ng/mL.