The great majority of Americans don’t receive nearly enough vitamin D through their dietary consumption. Individuals diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency may be recommended with a higher dose of the vitamin, usually up to 5000 IU.
5000 IU Vitamin D supplements are a mainstay in pharmacies and health food stores, typically advertised as “high potency” supplements, marketed towards helping support bone, muscle, and immune health. But the question is, do you need that much vitamin D in one sitting?
Quite frankly, no. While the truth is that vitamin D is an essential vitamin the body needs to stay healthy, the average adult needs only up to 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D to enjoy its benefits.
On the other hand, the recommended maximum daily allowance of vitamin D in healthy adults is 4000 IU, comprising not just supplements but also dietary sources.
Therefore, most adults don’t need 5000 IU unless they are clinically deficient with vitamin D — which is what “extra strength” supplements were intended for. Severe vitamin D deficiency may cause muscle weakness and tiredness, but most people with low vitamin D do not manifest any symptoms.
What is vitamin D 5000 IU?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient known for regulating calcium levels, maintaining bone density and strength, and healthy immune response.
The primary ways individuals obtain vitamin D are from exposure to the sun as well as dietary sources. According to the National Institutes of Health, most adult individuals require approximately 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D through dietary sources apart from what the sun provides.
Vitamin D supplements marketed as extra strength — that is, 5000 IU or upwards of the recommended daily limit of 4000 IU — are used to treat adults diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency for people who don’t get sufficient amounts of the nutrient through their exposure to the sun or their dietary consumption.
Vitamin D deficiency is actually a common occurrence, particularly for individuals living in northern climates or for those of us who spend most of our time indoors. Worse, there are but a few natural sources of dietary vitamin D.
Most 5000 IU vitamin D supplements contain a type of vitamin D naturally found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna known as vitamin D3. On the other hand, vitamin D2 is a type of vitamin D found in plant sources. Most vitamin D supplements contain vitamin D3 due to their effectiveness in increasing vitamin D levels than the latter.
Vitamin D supplements are a way for others with insufficient sun exposure or dietary restrictions to meet their daily nutritional requirements. However, as with anything, too much of a good thing is bad — and excessive vitamin D consumption may have some toxic side effects.
Typical vitamin D supplement dosages range from 400-2000 IU; therefore, a 5000 IU supplement will be on the highest end of the spectrum.
How much vitamin D do I really need?
Over 42% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D. Furthermore, individuals with darker skin are more prone to the deficiency, as the darker the skin is, the less natural vitamin D it makes from exposure to sunlight.
That said, most Americans consume less than the recommended daily amount of vitamin D (600-800 IU). And, as vitamin D isn’t naturally present in a lot of food products, foods like milk and cereal are fortified with the nutrient for the sake of public health. That’s because natural vitamin D sources from food are few and far between (such as fatty fish, liver, mushrooms, and eggs).
It’s important to check the labels on your food products to determine how much vitamin D you’re getting in one serving and whether it meets the recommended daily allowance.
Lastly, supplements can help individuals who don’t usually consume a lot of fish or dairy.
How can you tell if you are deficient in vitamin D?
The most conclusive way to determine whether you are deficient in vitamin D is to take a blood test. However, it must be noted that getting vitamin D levels checked is not a required procedure, especially given the fact that testing can cost you quite a pretty penny, and laboratories may have variances in how they test for the vitamin.
Testing is generally recommended by experts for patients with high vitamin D deficiency risk. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force doesn’t recommend screening for vitamin D deficiency.
Most vitamin D-deficient patients don’t report any symptoms; however, for severe, prolonged deficiencies, common symptoms include fatigue and muscle weakness, fractures, and pain in the bones.
Reference ranges for vitamin D blood concentrations aren’t well-defined. However, the NIH recommends that individuals with less than 12 ng/mL of vitamin D are deficient, and those with over 50 ng/mL of vitamin D are at high risk for potential toxicity.
If you are diagnosed with low to deficient vitamin D levels, your doctor may recommend boosting your dietary consumption, sun exposure, or high-dose vitamin D supplements. Consult your healthcare professional if you have any concerns about vitamin D deficiency.
Is it possible to overdose on vitamin D?
Too much of anything is bad for you, and vitamin D is no different. Consuming large doses of vitamin D supplements (especially those with 5000 IU) makes it easier for you to exceed the recommended daily allowance — and therefore be exposed to side effects.
It must be noted that excessive vitamin D always arises from excessive oral vitamin D intake rather than exposure to the sun. Also, as vitamin D increases calcium absorption, the potentially dangerous side effects from excessive dosages are a result of high blood calcium concentrations. The most frequent side effects related to excessive vitamin D consumption may include muscle pain, frequent urination, and nausea.
Still asking whether a 5000 IU vitamin D supplement is right for you? The answer all depends on your vitamin D concentrations. Talk to your doctor if you think something is amiss with your vitamin D and whether you should take a vitamin D blood test.
Your doctor may recommend you to get more sunlight or consume more foods containing vitamin D. He or she may also recommend you to take a vitamin D supplement. Refrain from taking excessively high doses without consulting your primary healthcare provider.