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Vitamin D Drops? Tablets? Softgels?

During the winter, blood levels can drop below the acceptable range even with 2,000 IU of vitamin D drops daily. So is absorption with vitamin D drops really better than with tablets or softgels?

Most people think they are doing extremely well to take 1,000 or 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day. I was one of them. Not only was I taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D supplements, but there was also vitamin D in my milk and in my calcium tablets. I was sure that my blood levels would soar well into the recommended range of 75-200nmol/L (30-80ng/ml). But instead my blood levels declined after I increased my vitamin D. As vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and the prevention of osteoporosis... this drop in blood levels was unacceptable. In fact, many experts advise that our immune systems are best supported by staying in the middle or top of the recommended range which would be above 125nmol or 50ng.

As I was definitely headed in the wrong direction, I suspected that absorption had something to do with it.


As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D absorption is improved when taken with meals or with a snack that includes some dietary fat. That shouldn’t have been the problem in my case. I was always taking the supplement after breakfast which usually included some buttered toast.


The Vitamin D Council advises that a number of co-factors help the body to use vitamin D properly. These include:

Magnesium is the most important of these co-factors as raising vitamin D intake may worsen an underlying magnesium deficiency. But this shouldn’t have been a problem in my case, as I was taking Cal/Mag to prevent osteoporosis... and that includes over 300 mg of magnesium a day.

People with gastrointestinal problems often prefer to get their vitamin D from a sunlamp rather than supplements.


Most capsules disintegrate rapidly in the stomach and release their contents quickly while tablets may dissolve incompletely or not dissolve at all. Generally speaking, capsules are a better choice than tablets.

But who has ever seen a generic vitamin D capsule? I was taking 1,000 IU tablets rather than capsules. And interestingly... there seemed to be no relationship between the size of the tablet and its strength. I bought some vitamin K and D tablets that were half the size of my vitamin D tablets ... but had the same strength. Hmmmmmmm.


My health conscious friends are all excited about vitamin D drops. Some of them put the drops on the back of their hand and lick it off to ensure that they are getting the full value of the supplement. That is because the vitamin D is embedded in oil that can adhere to the side of the container of salad, cereal or nutritious drink. (This seems a little bit fussy to me.)


Cod liver oil sounds like the perfect solution. After all... that is what everyone used when I was a child and they have improved it now to include lemon flavouring. Mmmmmmm.

But there are a lot of things I don’t like about cod liver oil. During the winter months in Canada, several tablespoons would be required each day to maintain recommended blood levels. (That is way too much oil for me.) Most cod liver oil also contains a LOT of vitamin A, which is strange because there is very little vitamin A deficiency in developed countries. But most importantly... many brands of cod liver oil have little or no vitamin D because it was removed during the manufacturing process. Buyers must be very selective about which brands they purchase... although quality brands do exist.


Softgels are my vitamin D supplement of choice. They come in all different strengths including the 5,000 IU recommended by the Vitamin D Council. They are small and easy to swallow and the vitamin D is mixed with an oil that helps to improve absorption. (Mine includes soybean oil.) They are also inexpensive and easy to take... unlike vitamin D drops. I took 5,000 IU of vitamin D for three months before a blood test in January and my blood levels were in the top 25 percentile of the recommended range... right where I wanted them to be.

There is a growing amount of research that says vitamin D blood levels over 150nmol/L (80ng/ml) are needed to strengthen our immune system and protect us from cancer. So it is worth some experimentation to find the supplement strength that will keep you in this range throughout the year.

For the winter months, I take 5,000 IUs daily, which Puritan's Pride offers at a great price and ships to Canada within days.

For information on calcium and magnesium that reinforce vitamin D drops and softgels... visit Osteoporosis Treatment Guidelines..