Why does the government ignore evidence for the benefits of Vitamin D?

No interest in making people healthier

In other words the SACN – the official source of information about food and supplements – is not allowed to advise about how any food could make you healthier and better able to fight off disease. Its only concern is to work out the minimum amount that people need to prevent the general population having a problem. As far at vitamin D is concerned that’s the amount needed to stop rickets – a connection that was first made in the 1920′s.

So it is no wonder most UK NHS doctors are not very interested in checking your vitamin D status.  Their advice about this remarkable hormone comes from a committee whose awareness of its potential has moved on little in nearly a hundred years.

The result is that if your NHS vitamin D blood test shows you have 26 nmol/L or more, there is no need for you or your doctor to do anything.  This level is set at the equivalent of 50 in USA, plus there are valid bone-related reasons for it to be more than 75 and the international experts are calling for 100-150.

This is like a car always running on an empty tank of fuel or a photocopier always running with little toner on reserve.  How much better if we keep the reserve topped up so that our body can use as much as it needs when it needs it.  When we are Adonis or Aphrodite of 20 most of us have chemicals in our bodies that are at their peak.  By the time we reach 40 many of these chemicals have reduced and this is when some of the longer-term illnesses of older age start to begin to develop.  I am following the hypothesis that it might help to replenish these chemical to levels like I had when I was younger.  This involves a combination of choosing specific foods for optimum nutrition and adding some supplements

But even this minimalist Risk Management strategy for Vitamin D is failing in the UK. Every year between 2008 and 2011 there were over 700 recorded cases of Rickets in the UK. This is a scandal, as the Department of Health knows how to avoid it – but they have forgotten what their predecessor once knew.  In the past, food was fortified with Vitamin D and the government gave Cod Liver Oil to children in the 1940s and 1950s, but both of these actions were stopped.

Even more alarming, it seems very likely that this dangerous and utterly inadequate approach is what doctors are taught – I spoke to a GP who told me that “I know nothing about nutrition”.  This is like their “evidence-based” approach to all other nutritional supplements, which they often describe as expensive urine.  I am reminded of the quote from Wendell Berry: “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”

Rufus Greenbaum

Rufus Greenbaum

Rufus Greenbaum describes himself as a “private individual” but he has an extensive knowledge of Vitamin D and has also been experimenting with various approaches to preventative health and recording the results. His page with Vitamin D UK data.
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  • Good to know that people are picking up on this and trying to get the health professionals to pay more attention to it in the UK!

    You have a small but important error on this page:
    ” Traditional advice has been that an adult needed 200IUs or 5mg a day.” 5mg should be 5mcg.

    Personally I found that, despite eating oily fish twice a week, eating butter (fortified with vit D to “summer butter” levels) AND taking a fish oil supplement daily, I was STILL mildly deficient in vit D (by Australian standards, where I now live). Vit D testing is quite common here, as so many people use so much sunscreen and stay out of the fierce sun – and they are quite keen to promote supplementing it to prevent certain possible health outcomes, including bowel cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s. In my case, supplementing vit D3 separately MAY have contributed to a successful pregnancy after 3 miscarriages (low vit D status being associated, as I’m sure you know, with both miscarriage and subfertility).

    I still take 3000IU per day and on my last blood test, my levels hadn’t fallen out of range again so that’s good news.

    Keep up the good work with trying to get more people to understand the value and importance of good vit D levels.

    • Editorial

      thanks for pointing out the error – will correct. Resistance to vit D still strong here – about 18 months ago I suggested a story on vit D to the BMJ – British medical Journal) to be told “we don’t believe in vitamin D”!

      • The BMJ “don’t believe in vitamin D”?? Good grief.

        Mind you, I’m not sure they believe in coenzyme Q 10 either, although they have allowed articles on that component’s depletion due to statin use, so maybe it is “more important” than vitamin D in their eyes.

        Vitamin D must be more of a threat to certain extremely large commercial enterprises than I thought!

  • When I was in hospital recently with a kidney stone I was asked if I took vitamin D. They told me it that it can cause kidney stones (LOL). Any comments on this?

    • Editorial

      Hi I am not a clinician and I’ll try to get a response for someone better qualified but this is a copy of the first two paragraphs of a report on the news site Science Daily in October this year. It seems reassuring.

      Vitamin D Does Not Contribute to Kidney Stones
      Oct. 17, 2013 — Increased vitamin D levels may prevent a wide range of diseases, according to recent studies. However, some previous studies led to a concern that vitamin D supplementation could increase an individual’s risk of developing kidney stones.
      However, a study of 2,012 participants — published in the American Journal of Public Health -found no statistically relevant association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25 (OH)D) serum level in the range of 20 to 100 ng/mL and the incidence of kidney stones.

      See the full version at:

  • Rufus this needs to go on Facebook.


  • Rufus, excellent article, thank you.A conference, titled “Vitamin D, Sun and Human Health,” will be held on April 28th and 29th 2014, at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo, Norway.
    The conference will provide the latest scientific news and research on all things related to vitamin D. This includes deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and health benefits of adequate vitamin D levels. The conference is mainly aimed for health professionals, medical doctors and researchers.
    Organizers are currently accepting proposals for presentations at the conference. In addition, they invite all attendees to submit an abstract to publish in a special edition of Dermato-Endocrinology, on vitamin D, sun and health. Abstracts must be original, unpublished work.
    For more information on the conference and how to register, and more, visit the conference website: http://oslo2014.d-vit.eu/

  • I have shared this on my FB page…. it is an excellent article about a deplorable situation. And without attempting any racism at all… how do Muslim Women who must cover themselves completely manage to keep their levels in the ‘normal’ range? GP’s in the UK obviously don’t care….. It sounds as if they wait for signs of Rickets to offer healing?

    by the way EDITOR I am not receiving regular notifications of new items posted…. I did register and you did say all was OK

    • Editorial

      Not sure it is fair to say UK GPs don’t care about vitamin d status of Muslim women, some are certainly well aware of it and try to help but but getting official recognition of the need for testing and supplementation is difficult.
      Sorry to hear you are having problems getting notification of new postings, will check out what’s happening.

  • I figured out more new stuff on this weight loss issue. One particular issue is that good nutrition is tremendously vital whenever dieting. An enormous reduction in bad foods, sugary ingredients, fried foods, sweet foods, beef, and whitened flour products may be necessary. Keeping wastes parasitic organisms, and toxic compounds may prevent aims for shedding fat. While specific drugs briefly solve the problem, the nasty side effects will not be worth it, they usually never present more than a non permanent solution. This can be a known idea that 95% of fad diets fail. Many thanks sharing your thinking on this blog site.

  • Excellent, Rufus.

    It is readily apparent to reasoned analysis that the way we live out our lives involves less frequent exposure to sun compared with times of the past, and even the best of dietary sources represent inadequate supply, hence the reason pale skin (deficient in the natural dark pigment and sub-block melanin) makes for a good evolutionary adaptation to more temperate latitudes – we need the necessary exposure to the sun to photosynthesise cholecalciferol (vitamin D) from its biochemical pre-cursor, cholesterol, and yet another reason to perceive we need all the cholesterol nature granted us with. That we can synthesise vitamin D is an indication we need to, because it would be rare for diet to match demand. We work longer than we ought, because many of us feel compelled to, then many of us work indoors and rarely see real daylight.

    Vitamin D is said to be genetically restorative. Are you in a position to write a feature upon this for HIUK?

    I’m no biochemist, but I note how genetic theory has advanced of late. The more dynamic and responsive component of the genome actually resides in the epigenome. While the epigenome sounds sophisticated and complicated it must be one of the simplest bits of chemistry in the body. Methyl (-( -CH3 ) tags that may be attached to individual genes render them mute, – so they have no say (cannot express themselves). Ergosterol, D2, 7-dehydrocholesterol, and D3, each look to me that they could be generous methyl group (-CH3) donors given need and appropriate requirement. Does this speculative observation on my part connect with D3s reputed capacity to repair damaged DNA, do you know? Aberrant methylation within the epigenome is increasingly considered the roots of cause where cancers are concerned.

    Additionally, would you know if homocysteine induced cholesterol derived oxy-sterols could be rendered (detoxified) by any antioxidants, and might vitamin E feature? Homocysteine theory has it that usual detoxification of homocysteine involves the process of methylation and the donation of methyl groups from B6, B12, or folic acid which opens the pathway for homocysteine to be converted to methionine. At the same time, if capacity for methylation is compromised homocysteine levels can rise and persist and promote peroxidation of otherwise healthful cholesterol.

    I’m afraid I could not attend debates and meetings of the SACN or NICE. The temptation to stamp up and down shouting indignantly, “It’s the environment you silly (so-and-sos)!! The departure from wellness witnessed in modernity is largely man-made, and the causes reside in aspects of the ‘environment’ we modern humans have fashioned for ourselves.!,” would be too great.

    NICE, the National Institute for Care and Clinical Excellence is not interested in demystifying effect, cause, and prevention. Instead NICE confine the application of their expertise to diagnosis and treatment. This pathway is second rate.

    Moreover the second rate pathway is compounded because the fat/cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease is falsehood from beginning to end, and championing it does much harm and no good. The policy upon lipid modification, prescribing statins, does not uphold standards of best practice and instead rank as guidelines that, in my eyes, trends to clinical malpractice.

    GPs could learn from a Naturally Oriented Institute for Care and Clinical Excellence (NO-NICE) promoting and permitting higher standards of care and prevention. Such a body could defeat the patients present lowly status of cash-cow for the big-pharma, and shave £millions from the national drugs bill.

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