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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Why is daily dosing of vitamin D important?

Occasionally, I miss very important vitamin D papers. Professors Bruce Hollis and Carol Wagner published such a paper in late 2013.

Hollis BW, Wagner CL. Clinical review: The role of the parent compound vitamin D with respect to metabolism and function: Why clinical dose intervals can affect clinical outcomes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Dec;98(12):4619-28. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-2653. Epub 2013 Oct 8. Review.

In this paper, they provide reasons why daily dosing of vitamin D is much better than stoss or bolus dosing (such as weekly, monthly, etc.). As many as 60% of the vitamin D clinical trials published to date used bolus dosing, not daily dosing. Many of those trials resulted in negative findings. Why?

The reason may be that the current vitamin D canon (accepted belief) is incorrect. Current canon is the autocrine theory, which states that all of the relevant parent compound (vitamin D) is transported to the liver where it is metabolized to 25(OH)D, and this 25(OH)D is then transported by vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) to the 33 tissues that utilize vitamin D. The cells in these tissues then absorb 25(OH)D through the cell membranes where it is again metabolized to form the steroid hormone calcitriol, which regulates genes.

However, this may be not be accurate, as 25(OH)D is strongly bound to vitamin D binding protein (VDBP), and not much of it is free to passively diffuse across cell membranes. The 25(OH)D/VDBP complex can be transported across cell membranes by specialized transporter proteins, but to date, these transporter proteins have not been found in very many tissues.

Hollis and Wagner theory states that it’s the parent compound (vitamin D) that diffuses across cell membranes. Very little vitamin D is bound to VDBP, so it is free to cross the cell membranes in large amounts by passive diffusion where it is metabolized into calcitriol. This would explain why the parent compound, vitamin D, disappears from the blood so quickly (12-24 hours); it is absorbed into cells.

I asked the famous vitamin D expert, Professor Hector DeLuca, about the canonical autocrine theory.

He responded,

“The jury is still out on the so-called autocrine production of calcitriol.  I do know that serum calcitriol is undetectable (below our limits of detection (in vivo (animal) experiment that demonstrates extra-renal production of calcitriol has appeared.  There are lots of reports that say extra-renal cells in vitro (test tube) can produce calcitriol.  It is not clear if this in vitro demonstration represents in vivo reality.”

He went on the say, “We already know that VDBP knockout experiments (experimental animals bred to have no VDBP) carried out by Nancy Cook did not reveal any abnormalities in vitamin D function (Safadi et al., J. Clin. Invest. 103:239-251, 1999), so there must be another mechanism whereby calcitriol ends up in tissues.”

If Hollis and Wagner are correct, it explains why so many bolus dosing studies using weekly, monthly or longer doses are negative. When using those doses, even large amounts of vitamin D would be cleared from the systemic circulation in several days and thus not be available to diffuse into cells and work vitamin D’s magic.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to Why is daily dosing of vitamin D important?

  1. Daily dosing ONLY needed if you are vitamin D deficient. A majority of the 63 studies which proved that vitamin D helps used non-daily dosing. http://vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=5735

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  2. Tom Weishaar says:

    One of the bad assumptions endemic to vitamin D research is that only calcitriol (1-25(OH)2D) can activate the vitamin D nuclear receptor. 25(OH)D and 24-25(OH)2D also activate the receptor and for most part activate different genes.See: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/three-versions-of-vitamin-d-can-activate-the-vitamin-d-receptor-in-some-cells/

    Another bad assumption is that things can only work one way. All of these theories (that skin/diet vitamin D enter cells, that bioavailable 25(OH)D enters cells, that 25(OH)D bound to vitamin D binding protein enters cells) could be true. No doubt some methods are more important to some cell types – but we have to realize that this is a more complicated system than the simple textbook models we’ve used in the past can explain.

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  3. JA Larson says:

    The human body is a remarkable chemical stew that is generally poor at storing things (other than fat). It is basically a real-time system…. use it or lose it.

    One methodological problem is the nursing home studies using huge annual doses rarely look at serum levels across time. As Heaney points out, a dosing model is fundamentally inaccurate; only serum levels count.

    The observational studies in northern counties show high summer levels and low winter levels, resulting in conflicting disease rates. Dr. Vieth suggests those disease rates are the result of the feast-famine nature of UVB exposure in northern areas.

    The reality re D levels is possibly even more complex. UVB generated D may have a longer half-life than supplements and that half-life may be modified by serum levels. Folks with high serum levels may not hold onto ‘excess’ 25(OH).

    So, generally folks estimate D half-life at 2-3 weeks, but UVB-D in a deficient person might be 6 weeks. If you want to see multiple variables at work, read the NASA bone studies.

    In any case, large annual doses would never be as effective as daily doses. Weekly or even monthly doses would have a gentler rolling serum D level (varying by UVB D, D3, or D2 etc.).

    So, it’s not all or none. Keeping in mind that 25(OH)D is the storage form, not the active 1,25 D form. 1,25 D half-life is roughly 15 hours. We measure 25(OH)D because it’s more stable, but it is really sort of a supply marker.

    Docs believe that weekly dosing results in more compliance. I haven’t read the compliance studies. Intuitively, establishing a daily habit seems like it would be more compliant. But logic only applies to Vulcans.

    Obviously D utilization is also modified by co-factors, drugs, and diseases. Cheers.

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