Vitamin D in the wintertime. What to do in northern areas?

My Mini Cooper in front of my house last winter; not a great time to get Vitamin D from the sun in New England.

It’s that time of year in New England; not much sunshine and too cold to get much of it on your body. So what do we do about Vitamin D? While many of the experts disagree on the topic of vitamin supplements, most agree with the idea of taking some Vitamin D — particularly in the wintertime up north.

Dr. Neal Barnard is quoted on page 62 of our book:

Technically, vitamin D is not a vitamin at all. It’s actually a hormone produced by sunlight on your skin, which is then converted to its active forms as it passes through your liver and kidneys. Once activated, it helps you absorb calcium and helps protect your cells against cancer, among other functions. If you get plenty of sun, you do not need any vitamin D in your diet. Most of us are not that lucky, however. If you do not get regular sun exposure, taking a multivitamin containing 400 IU of vitamin D is important.

To further clarify, here’s a very recent video from Dr. Michael Greger of on this subject. He suggests taking your D supplement with the largest meal of the day for best absorption. Take a look, it’s just over a minute.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

Here's the way I like to get my Vitamin D in the warmer months. But I do take a small supplement in the winter.

And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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4 Responses to Vitamin D in the wintertime. What to do in northern areas?

  1. Taking vit. D supplement is a controversial issue. Dr. McDougall recently rated it as less of a problem. After watching the Dr. Greger link that you gave, there are other links shown — Brian Clements, of Hippocrates Institute downplays it, too.

    Here is the link to Dr. McD’s March 2011 article on vitamin D:

    Vitamin D: Values for Normal Are Exaggerated
    ::: ENDING:
    In practical terms, a person living in Boston who is not suntanned and is fair-skinned will receive their total body MED from just 10 to 12 minutes of midday, July, summer sun. A darker-skinned Asian Indian will require three times this exposure in order to receive their total body MED. Very darkly pigmented people, such as blacks, will require 5 to 10 times more solar radiation than a white person. Vitamin D made in the spring, summer, and fall months is efficiently stored in the body fat and supplies people’s needs during winter months. The next best choice after natural sunlight would be to use artificial sunlight (sun beds, tanning booths).

    I do not recommend taking vitamin D pill supplements (pills or liquids) for most people because they provide little benefit in terms of bone health and have concerning side effects.9 The overall harmful effects caused by nutritional imbalances created by taking these pills are far from fully understood; however, there is sufficient evidence that taking vitamin D by mouth may increase your risk of heart disease, several forms of cancer, and kidney stones. In addition, recent studies have suggested levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D above 60 ng/mL are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, vascular calcification, and death from any cause.10

    These days many people fail to get adequate sun because of their dark skin pigmentation, living in high latitudes, wearing clothes, and working indoors. My initial response to a failed vitamin D test is to not take vitamin supplements, but rather to get outside, get more naked, and get closer to the equator on vacations. I highly recommend a Costa Rica McDougall Adventure trip at least once a year for optimal sunshine and excellent food.

  2. huracan says:

    The research I have seen suggests 1000-2000 IU daily for adults and 100-200 IU for children. Newer research suggests that D3 works synergistically with vitamins A and K, but it is too early to be conclusive. By the way, 20 minutes in the sun will produce 20,000 units per day. However, if you shower within 24 hours you pretty much wash it away. I encourage readers to do their own info research and not rely on my post. Be well.

  3. Silvana Lucero says:

    I go to a hollistic chiropractor. I took a blood test and found out I was low. I started taking 10,000 IU and am on a maintenance of 5,000 IU. I understand Dr. Mcdougal also recommends this amount. Doea anyone agree?

  4. Penny Smyth says:

    Good to know! Thank-you. I will share with my son in Seattle. You quote Dr. Bernard as recommending 400 IU. Do you stand by this amount or are you finding experts recommending higher doses now.

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