Should you take a Vitamin D Supplement?

by Kenda Hettinger, an ASU nutrition communication student

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mineral density. They recommend not smoking, limiting alcohol, regular weight-bearing exercise, and getting the calcium and vitamin D your body needs daily.


But, should you be taking a vitamin D supplement?


Some surprising trial results were published in the American Medical Association Journal in August 2019. In the study, Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Volumetric Bond Density & Bone Strength, Burt, L.A. et al. set out to assess the dose-dependent effects of vitamin D supplementation on bone mineral density. They studied 311 participants that started out with healthy bone mineral density. They came to the conclusion that vitamin D doses above the recommended dietary allowance, which is 400-800 IU daily, does not give you a greater bone mineral density. In fact, the individuals in the study who were taking the higher (4,000-10,000 IU) doses of vitamin D, had significantly lower radial bone mineral density. The researchers believe the higher doses of vitamin D may suppress the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which would decrease the PTH-mediated bone formation.


Some supporting evidence was published in 2016. Plante, L. et al., studied the effect of high-dose vitamin D supplementation on bone density in youth with osteogenesis imperfecta. They came to the conclusion, that higher doses of vitamin D results in increased vitamin D in the blood, but did not have a detectable effect on bone mineral scores in children with osteogenesis imperfecta.


The bottom line:


Livingston, K.M. states in a study published in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research Journal in 2017, that vitamin D intake, supplement use, age, gender, season, sunlight exposure, physical activity, vitamin D axis genes, as well as supplement use are all predictors of vitamin D blood concentrations. This means that every person, in every area of the world is different.


My take away from this data is that you can not take any supplements under the notion that more is better. If you suspect or worry about a vitamin D deficiency, get a workup from your primary care physician. They should be able to guide you on what type and how much vitamin D you need to be getting.


In the meantime, continue to get your vitamin D from your food or the sunlight. Remember that you do not have to be in the sun for long and to always protect your skin. Dietary sources of vitamin D are seafood, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified cow milk, plant-based milk, and cereals.



Looking for more articles like this? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog.  Check out the Find a Farmers Market tab to find a farmers market near you.




  1. General Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. General Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Burt LA, Billington EO, Rose MS, Raymond DA, Hanley DA, Boyd SK. Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Volumetric Bone Density and Bone Strength: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019;322(8):736–745. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.11889
  4. Plante, L., Veilleux, L., Weiler, H., & Rauch, F. (2015). Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Density in Youth with Osteogenesis Imperfecta: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Faseb Journal, 29, Faseb Journal, 2015 Apr, Vol.29 Suppl 1.
  5. Livingstone, Katherine M., Celis‐Morales, Carlos, Hoeller, Ulrich, Lambrinou, Christina P., Moschonis, George, Macready, Anna L., . . . Mathers, John C. (2017). Weekday sunlight exposure, but not vitamin D intake, influences the association between vitamin D receptor genotype and circulating concentration 25‐hydroxyvitamin D in a pan‐European population: The Food4Me study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(2), N/a.
  6. Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash
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