Why Vitamin D Supplements Are Overrated

Vitamin D is very important for many critical functions in your body. But research suggests supplementation isn't necessarily the answer.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Do you really need Vitamin D?

  • The best reason to drink a protein shake

  • How to outsmart toxic wellness

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Do You Really Need Vitamin D?

Almost any given week, you can find some study about Vitamin D. However, these studies don’t mention the one thing that probably matters most.

The effectiveness of Vitamin D depends on your level of deficiency. 

Despite what you might hear, research suggests that most people are not Vitamin D deficient. That’s because as little as three minutes of sun exposure can help fill your Vitamin D tank, and many foods are fortified with Vitamin D.

More importantly, Vitamin D is stored within your fat cells and liver. So even if you’re not getting much sun, your body stores the vitamin because it plays an important role in vital processes such as immune function and glucose metabolism.

Vitamin D appears to be an easy supplement to add. However, research has found that Vitamin D toxicity can be a problem for people, especially for those who overestimate their deficiency.

Instead of just taking a supplement, we recommend testing your blood with your doctor or a service like InsideTracker to determine whether there’s any need for a change.

Research suggests that a level of 12 ng/ml can get the job done and that you max out your benefits around 20 ng/ml.

For example, Vitamin D’s bone-strengthening benefits are linked to blood levels between 12 and 15 nanograms per milliliter. However, if you supplemented to boost your levels higher, there were no additional benefits when blood levels were above 20 ng/ml. 

Because of the risk of taking too much, we recommend testing your blood and determining your need if you want to supplement with Vitamin D. Otherwise, it’s likely an unnecessary addition.

The Best Reason To Drink A Protein Shake

We don’t believe in quick fixes. But we do believe in easy solutions. 

Research suggests that replacing one meal with a protein drink can help you lose more weight. 

We love reminding you that there is no magic pill or powder. The secret is that a protein shake helps avoid a common nutrition error. Research shows that people underestimate how many calories they consume—and it’s not by a small amount. You might be eating up to 50 percent more calories than you think. 

That’s why a meal replacement protein shake can work so well. It’s a calorie-controlled option filled with protein, which helps control your hunger. In other words, it’s less about the shake and more about the protein.

If you had the same number of calories and protein in solid food, you’d get the same (and possibly better) results. When you eat hard, solid foods, you tend to feel more satisfied than soft or liquid foods, which can help prevent overeating later in the day).

In the study, those swapping in a protein shake for one meal per day lost an average of 5.5 pounds compared to those who didn’t have the meal replacement. 

If you want to see if this strategy works for you, take your most challenging meal (usually breakfast or lunch) and swap it with a shake. Just keep an eye on what you add to the shake. Many people will use milk, nut butters, fruit, and a variety of other ingredients that — while healthy — pile on the calories.

Look for a shake with at least 20 grams of protein, anywhere from 150 to 300 calories, and a third-party certification such as NSF for Sport or Informed Sport. If you need a recommendation, love this protein shake.

How To Outsmart Toxic Wellness

The line between health and hoax gets murkier by the day. As Arnold shared, the secret to success is not what you see pushed on social media. 

We live on the hedonic treadmill. People in the wellness universe often determine their success by likes and views. 

All it takes is one controversial post or hot take to deliver a shot of social media dopamine. Once you have a taste, it’s hard to resist the desire for more, which just leads to more sensational, attention-grabbing opinions. 

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen popular posts on social media claiming:

  • Seed oils will kill you

  • Only vegan diets help longevity

  • Bread is the cause of obesity

  • Aging is a disease

  • Fasting is needed for healthy blood sugar

  • Sugar is toxic

  • Non-organic foods are killing you

For the record, none of the above takes are accurate. 

It’s a broken system. The things that work — boring, sustainable habits and routines — don’t get the attention.

There’s a scientific reason you’re drawn towards these takes, even if part of you might be skeptical or unsure. 

Research suggests any time you’re presented with something new, your brain lights up and triggers the release of dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter). A shot of dopamine increases motivation, drive, and focus. It’s why it’s almost impossible to resist the new ideas that might make you better, no matter how crazy those new ideas might sound.

So, the newer or more complicated something sounds, the more likely you are to believe it works. (We cover this phenomenon in You Can’t Screw This Up and show you how to work around it.)

Translation: Your brain is likely to skip over information that feels like common sense and hunt for novel, extreme approaches that you’re convinced are more likely to lead to the desired outcome.

If you want to stop falling for the same trap, ask if the information you’re consuming is designed to create fear and sell novelty.

The antidote to wellness starts with shifting what you think it takes to succeed. Behavioral change — the foundation of improving your health (or any skill) — is rooted in a simple concept: make it hard to fail.

You’ll experience better results by avoiding the allure of the extreme. Your best bet is to spend more energy focusing on big-picture questions and less on approaches that make you stress every little decision.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell