Vitamin D must be oil-based

As part of the Track Your Plaque coronary plaque reversal program, we advocate vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce blood sugar and reduce pre-diabetic tendencies, reduce blood pressure (it's a renin antagonist, a blood pressure hormone), it's far more important for bone health than calcium, and it may help prevent colon cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

And, oh yes, it may facilitate coronary plaque regression.

One lesson I've learned is that vitamin D MUST be taken as a oil-based capsule or gelcap. You'll recognize it as a transparent or translucent, sometimes opaque, capsule. The list of ingredients may say something like "cholecalciferol [vitamin D] in a base of soybean oil", indicating that the active ingredient is oil-based. Oil-based vitamin D3 skyrockets blood levels of 25-OH-vitamin D3 in to the normal range reliably and easily.

Tablets are a different story. These are generally white powdery tablets. The rise in blood levels of vitamin D3 are minimal, sometimes none. Women will often say "I get vitamin D with my calcium tablets."

People taking this form almost always have blood levels of vitamin D that are low, as if they were taking nothing.
If you're going to take vitamin D, the oil-based tablets are the way to go. They're not necessarily any more expensive. We've had good experiences with the Nature's Life 2000 unit capsule, as well as preparations from Life Extension. We have had negative experiences with the preparations from GNC, Sam's Club, and Walgreen's, all tablets and non-oil-based.

Comments (10) -

  • Anonymous

    3/16/2007 4:46:00 PM |

    NOW you tell me.....I just bought a big bottle of Vitamin D3 TABLETS.


  • Warren

    3/17/2007 4:58:00 AM |

    I agree that taking gel caps is most convenient and will create the most likelihood of consistent proper uptake.  But will taking the pills with a meal containing fat, or with my fish oil caps, likely make the pills work just as well as the gel caps?

  • Dr. Davis

    3/17/2007 12:14:00 PM |

    Not an formal analysis, but my experience is that the great majority of tablet preparations, regardless of how they're taken, yield trivial levels of absorption. It's oil-containing gelcaps or no, I'm afraid.

  • Anonymous

    3/9/2008 4:44:00 AM |

    What about the LEF capsules which are a fine powder.  They the same deal?

  • Anonymous

    3/24/2008 1:05:00 PM |

    I haven't seen the Vitamin Shoppe version yet, but the Carlson's Vitamin D souce is Cod Liver oil.

    Are there problems with cod liver oil as the source of "D" -- i.e. the increased vitamin A, and possible mercury/pcb contamination?  My understanding re taking omega 3's, for example, is that cod liver oil is not the healthiest source, because of the above.

    What is the story w/the Vitamin Shoppe, oil based versions?  Am particularly concerned because I need to find a version safe for a 6 year old -- and the increased A/mercury, issue is even more important in a small child.

  • Bev

    5/16/2008 2:53:00 PM |

    I have a fish allergy so taking a cod-liver formulation of vitamin D is out. Are there any preparations you know of that are oil-based but not fish-based? I haven't found any so far.

  • Indrani

    5/22/2009 7:45:40 PM |

    Vitamin D gels are available at Whole Foods.

  • Dan

    9/21/2009 2:12:34 AM |

    Hey man,
    my fiancee wrote an article on Vitamin D summarizing a ton of research, and one of her citations that she has is of a study that directly contradicts your statement that it's important to have an oil-based form.

    Basically, they measured the serum measurements after supplementation with either tablets and cod liver oil and simply found the results to be statistically insignificant.

    See for yourself:
    ↑ Vieth, R (1999-05). "Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69 (5): 842-856. ISSN 0002-9165.

    By the way, I linked her article on my name. Hope you don't reject it for that reason.

    If you have any input to give me, I'd love to hear it (including any research that contradicts the study I just pasted -- we're aiming for accuracy here)...

  • lainy

    12/6/2009 11:06:44 PM |

    I found some capsules from Sundown Naturals, 2000 IU.  Do you think those are just as good as the Carlson's or Vitamin Shoppe?  They are a lot smaller than any I've seen before...

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 9:16:00 PM |

    In other words, vitamin D tablets do not work. It is shameful. I see numerous women taking calcium tablets with D--the vitamin D does not work. I've actually seen blood levels of zero on these preparations.