9 Steps to Perfect Health - #4: Supplement Wisely | Chris Kresser

9 Steps to Perfect Health – #4: Supplement Wisely

by Chris Kresser

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In the first three articles in this series, we discussed which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. In this article we’re going to talk about when to supplement and how to do it wisely. We’ve got a lot of material to cover, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable!

There are three principles to supplementing wisely:

  • Get nutrients from food whenever possible.
  • Take nutrients in their naturally occurring form whenever possible.
  • Be selective with your supplementation.

Get Nutrients from Food Whenever Possible

Humans are adapted to getting nutrients from whole foods. Most nutrients require enzymes, synergistic co-factors and organic mineral-activators to be properly absorbed. While these are naturally present in foods, they are often not included in synthetic vitamins with isolated nutrients.

In a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition called Food Synergy: An Operational Concept For Understanding Nutrition emphasizing the importance of obtaining nutrients from whole foods, the authors concluded:

A person or animal eating a diet consisting solely of purified nutrients in their Dietary Reference Intake amounts, without benefit of the coordination inherent in food, may not thrive and probably would not have optimal health. This review argues for the primacy of food over supplements in meeting nutritional requirements of the population.

They cautioned against the risk of reductionist thinking, which is common in conventional medicine and nutritional supplementation. Instead, they urge us to consider the importance of what they call “food synergy”:

The concept of food synergy is based on the proposition that the interrelations between constituents in foods are significant. This significance is dependent on the balance between constituents within the food, how well the constituents survive digestion, and the extent to which they appear biologically active at the cellular level.

They go on to provide evidence that whole foods are more effective than supplements in meeting nutrient needs:

  • Tomato consumption has a greater effect on human prostate tissue than an equivalent amount of lycopene.
  • Whole pomegranates and broccoli had greater antiproliferative and in vitro chemical effects than did some of their individual constituents.
  • Free radicals were reduced by consumption of brassica vegetables, independent of micronutrient mix.

In short: get nutrients from food, not supplements, whenever you can.

Take Nutrients in Their Naturally Occurring Form Whenever Possible

Synthetic, isolated nutrients don’t always have the same effect on the body. It matters whether the nutrients have been produced by technologic or biological processes, because industrial processing sometimes creates an entirely new compound with different physiological actions.

Trans fat produced in ruminant animals (such as conjugated linoleic acids in dairy products) are beneficial to health, whereas trans fats produced in the processing of industrial seed oils are highly toxic.

Folic acid is another example. The naturally occurring form of folate is not folic acid, a compound not normally found in food or nature, but tetrahydrofolate. While folic acid can be converted into folate, that conversion is poor in humans. It’s also important to note that unlike natural folate, folic acid does not cross the placenta. This is significant because folate is a crucial nutrient for pregnancy, and while folic acid can prevent neural tube defects it doesn’t have the other beneficial effects of folate. What’s more, several studies have shown that folic acid – but not natural folate – increases cancer risk. Unfortunately, folic acid is what’s often used in multivitamins, because it’s significantly cheaper than natural folate.

Be Selective with Your Supplementation.

Multivitamins have become increasingly popular: half of Americans currently take one. But is this a good idea? Most studies show that multivitamins either provide no benefit, or may even cause harm. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that multivitamins have little to no influence on the risk of common cancers, CVD or total mortality in postmenopausal women. A now infamous meta-analysis in the Journal of American Medical Association, which looked at over 68 trials with 230,000 pooled participants, found that treatment with synthetic beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E may increase mortality.

The problem with multivitamins is that they contain too little of beneficial nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, and too much of potentially toxic nutrients like folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin E. This means that multivitamins can actually cause nutrient imbalances that contribute to disease. Another problem is that multivitamin manufacturers often use the cheapest possible ingredients, such as folic acid instead of natural folate – the consequences of which we discussed above.

Which Supplements May Be Necessary?

At this point you might be thinking I’m against supplementation entirely. Not so. No matter how well we eat, some nutrients are difficult to obtain enough of from food alone. There are also circumstances where are need for certain nutrients may increase, such as vitamin C during infections and magnesium with blood sugar imbalances or metabolic problems. In these cases, it makes sense to supplement selectively with beneficial nutrients.

The five nutrients I recommend most people supplement with are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K2
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C

Vitamin A (Retinol)

Vitamin A is important catalyst for a variety of biochemical processes in the body. It’s required for assimilation of protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and it also acts as antioxidant > protecting body against free-radical damage and diseases like cancer. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in reproduction, promoting full-term pregnancy and proper development of face (eyes, nose, dental arches & lips).

The RDA for vitamin A (2,600 IU) is woefully inadequate, and even then, over 25% of American consume less than half of the recommended amount. Native populations such as the traditional Inuit – which were free of modern, degenerative disease – got much more vitamin A than the average American. The Greenland Inuit of 1953, prior to much contact with the Western world, got about 35,000 IU of vitamin A per day.

Vitamin A (retinol) is only found in significant amounts in organ meats, which explains why many Americans don’t get enough of it. If you follow my recommendations in #2: Nourish Your Body, and you do eat organ meats (especially liver), you’re probably getting enough vitamin A and thus don’t need to supplement. However, if you’re like most Americans and you’ve never eaten liver in your life, you would benefit from supplementing with A.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media about the toxicity of vitamin A. Some researchers and doctors now recommend avoiding cod liver oil because of this concern. Even Dr. Mercola has jumped on the “vitamin A is toxic” bandwagon. But is this true?

It is true that vitamin A is potentially toxic. Some evidence suggests that excess vitamin A increases the risk of osteoporosis. For example, this study showed both low and high serum A carried double risk of fractures as did optimal levels.

But if we dig deeper we find that excess vitamin A only causes problems against a backdrop of vitamin D deficiency. In his excellent article Vitamin A on Trial: Does Vitamin A Cause Osteoporosis, researcher Chris Masterjohn summarizes evidence demonstrating that vitamin D decreases the toxicity of and increases the dietary requirement for vitamin A. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin D radically increases the toxicity threshold of vitamin A. In a hypothetical 160 lb. person, vitamin D supplementation increases the toxicity threshold of vitamin A to more than 200,000 IU/d. You’d have to eat 22 ounces of beef liver or take 5 TBS of high vitamin CLO each day to get this amount. Not likely!

To meet vitamin A needs (assuming you’re not up for eating organ meats), I recommend taking high vitamin cod liver oil (CLO) to provide a dose of 10-15,000 IU per day. Cod liver oil is really more of a food than a supplement, but since it’s not a normal part of people’s diet we’ll consider it as a supplement.

CLO is an ideal vitamin A source because it also contains vitamin D, which as we just learned, protects against the toxicity of A.

Vitamin D

Much has been written about the need for and benefits of vitamin D supplementation over the past several years – and with good reason. It’s absolutely critical for health, and up to 50% of Americans are deficient.

We can get vitamin D from two sources: food, and sunshine. Seafood is the only significant source of vitamin D, but you’d still have to eat a lot of it to get enough. 8-9 ounces of herring provides about 2,000 IU of vitamin D, which is a minimum daily requirement for most people to maintain adequate blood levels.

Sunlight converts a precursor called 7-dehydro-cholesterol in our skin to vitamin D3. This D3, along with the D3 we get from food, gets converted by the liver into 25-hyrdroxy-vitamin D (25D), which is what typically gets measured when you have a vitamin D test. The optimal 25D level is somewhere between 35 and 50 ng/mL.

Contrary to what some researchers and doctors have recommended, there’s no evidence that raising blood levels of 25D above 50 ng/mL is beneficial, and there’s some evidence that it may cause harm. Studies show that bone mineral density peaks at 45 ng/mL and then falls again as 25D levels rise above 45. Other studies have shown that the risk of kidney stones and CVD increase with high 25D levels, due to elevated serum calcium levels that accompany excess vitamin D.

However, we also know that vitamin A and vitamin K2 protect against vitamin D toxicity, and vice versa. As I explained in the vitamin A section, fat soluble vitamins exist in a synergistic relationship. It’s possible that the people in the studies above that experienced problems with excess 25D levels were deficient in vitamin A or K2, or both. This is why it’s so important to supplement with all of the fat-soluble vitamins together.

What about sunlight? Well, in summer mid-day sun with pale skin, 30 minutes of direct sunlight will produce 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D. But this is a best case scenario. With darker skin, or different times of year, or buildings that block the sunlight, or increased time spent indoors, we won’t be producing that much. It’s also true that aging, overweight and inflammation reduce our conversion of sunlight to vitamin D. This is why sunlight alone isn’t normally a sufficient source of vitamin D.

With this in mind, most people should supplement with D. The amount needed to maintain blood levels of 35-50 ng/mL varies depending on some of the factors I’ve listed above, but in my clinical experience it’s usually somewhere between 2,000 – 5,000 IU.

With vitamin D, it’s important to test your levels, begin supplementation, and then re-test a few months later to determine the correct maintenance dose.

As with vitamin A, the best source of vitamin D is high-vitamin cod liver oil. It contains not only vitamins A & D, but also natural vitamin E and other quinones.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 may be the most important vitamin most people have never heard of. It’s needed to activate proteins and it also regulates calcium metabolism (keeping it in the bones and teeth where it belongs, and out of the soft tissue where it doesn’t belong). Elevated blood calcium significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which explains why vitamin K2 has been shown to prevent atherosclerosis and heart attacks. It also strengthens bones.

Unfortunately, many (if not most) of Americans are deficient in vitamin K2. It’s important to point out that vitamin K2 is not the same as vitamin K1, which is found in green, leafy vegetables like kale and collards. Some K1 is converted into K2 in our bodies, but that conversion is inefficient in humans. It is efficient, however, in ruminant animals – which is why grass-fed dairy is the most convenient source of vitamin K2 in the diet. This is only true in animals raised on pasture, because it is eating the K1-rich grass that allows them to convert it into K2.

Most people should aim for at least 100 mcg/d from a combination of food and supplements. If you eat a large amount of cheese from grass-fed cows and pastured egg yolks, you may be able to get this amount from food alone. 100 g of hard cheese contains 67 mcg, and 6 pastured egg yolks contain about 32 mcg. Otherwise, supplementation is probably beneficial. I recommend a dosage of 1 mg/d in the MK-4 form, which is the form of vitamin K2 found in pastured dairy and the one shown to have the most benefit in clinical studies. There is another form, MK-7, that is found in fermented foods like natto, but it has not demonstrated the same properties as MK-4 in clinical studies.


There are few compounds in the body more important to overall health than magnesium.

Over 300 enzymes need it, including every enzyme associated with ATP, and enzymes required to synthesize DNA, RNA and proteins. Magnesium also plays an important role in bone and cell membranes, as it helps to transport ions across the membrane surface.

Studies show that most Americans are deficient in magnesium. The median intake across all racial groups is far below the RDA, which is 420 mg/d for men and 320-400 mg/d for women. Although half of Americans take a multivitamin daily, most don’t contain enough magnesium to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Magnesium is also difficult to obtain from food. Nuts and seeds are the highest source, but it’s difficult to eat enough of them to meet magnesium needs without getting too much polyunsaturated fat. Another issue is that magnesium levels in food have dropped as modern soils have become increasingly depleted. What this means is that if you’re not supplementing with magnesium, you’re probably not getting enough.

And magnesium deficiency is no small thing. It has serious – even fatal – consequences. It produces symptoms like muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, tremor, headaches & acid reflux, and it’s associated with CVD, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, migraines, PMS, asthma, hypothyroidism. In fact, it’s hard to find a modern disease magnesium deficiency isn’t associated with.

Because of this, I think everyone should supplement with magnesium. Intake of 400 – 800 mg/d from a combination of food and supplements is an optimal range to shoot for. Since most people get less than 250 mg/d from food, a dose of 400 – 600 mg/d in supplement form is ideal. I recommend using chelated forms of magnesium like glycinate and malate, because they’re better absorbed and tend to have fewer side effects.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for building the structural components of the body, and for maintaining levels of glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body. But vitamin C deficiency is also common: studies suggest that 34% of men and 27% of women don’t get enough. This is especially true for the elderly and those struggling with chronic illness.

400 mg/d is the saturation range in healthy people, and that number is probably higher in the elderly and the sick. As with the other micronutrients in this article, it’s difficult to obtain adequate levels of vitamin C from the diet. Acerola cherries are the highest food source, with 1677 mg per 100g. A cup of cooked red peppers has 235 mg, which is one of the highest dietary sources.

I’m somewhat less certain about the need to supplement with vitamin C, but in general I recommend approximately 500 mg to 1 g of vitamin C each day. If you’re dealing with a chronic health challenge, or fighting an infection, you can take several grams a day with no toxic effects. It’s best to space the doses out to avoid diarrhea, however.

Other Contenders

In addition to the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2, and magnesium and vitamin C, some may want to consider supplementing with selenium and iodine. Selenium plays important role in thyroid function, which affects every aspect of physiology. The recommended dose is approximately 200 mcg/d.

Selenium is plentiful in organ meats, ocean fish, and in brazil nuts. One brazil nut contains 100 mcg of selenium, but it also contains a whopping 1 g of omega-6 linoleic acid, which as you know from previous articles in the series, we want to limit significantly. This is why I don’t recommend brazil nuts as a source of selenium. Ocean fish are also good sources of selenium. 100 g of cod contains about 150 mcg.

Iodine also plays a crucial role in thyroid function, and it prevents brain damage and strengthens the immune system. The amount iodine needed for thyroid function is incredibly small: we need about a teaspoon of iodine over a lifetime to avoid deficiency.

I’m not convinced humans need to supplement with iodine above what can be obtained from seafood, but some research does suggest that increased intake of iodine is beneficial. This is especially true if you’re fighting a chronic infection or dealing with a hypothyroidism caused by iodine deficiency.

But be careful: iodine can trigger and flare autoimmune diseases, especially Hashimoto’s and Graves'(autoimmune thyroid disease). In the U.S., 9 out of 10 women with hypothyroidism actually have Hashimoto’s, so the typical advice to supplement with iodine if you are hypothyroid is dangerous. I’ve written extensively about this in my special report on thyroid disease.

For those without autoimmune disease, a dose of 12.5 mg – 50 mg per day may be beneficial, but it’s best to work up slowly over time, beginning at a much lower dose.


Join the conversation

  1. On the issue of drinking/eating grass-fed dairy…what about the toxic items being sprayed in our skies from the CHEMTRAILS?
    Chemtrails supposedly have: aluminum, barium, & strontium, that rains down onto the grass that the animals eat.

    Wouldn’t those 3 things cancel out any benefits from eating the whole foods vs. supplements? Nothing is completely “organic” anymore, if it’s grown outside & the chemtrails rain down on it all! Only indoor or hothouse, grown organic would work.

  2. I would love to have you comment on how much calcium we should get to balance the D/K/A/Mg recommended. If a person can’t eat dairy (or are eating paleo) and does not want to eat canned sardines every day, how many servings of green plants are needed to not get into trouble with bone loss? Do we need to account for oxalates preventing the calcium from being absorbed? Thank you!

    • Most americans ARE deficient from iodine. Try not to spread false information without researching it first. The RDA for iodine is 150mcg. Studies have shown time and time again that you need about 12 milligrams every day to support your thyroid, organs and tissues alone. The polution in the atmosphere also renders 150mcg useless since that was the suggested amount for 50+ years ago. Those who live closer to the great lakes also tend to be the most deficient as we dont have any iodine in our soils. They dont call the great lake region “The Goiter Belt” for nothing. It has been estimated that at least 70% of the population (world wide) is deficient in iodine. Those deficient in iodine are at an increased risk of being deficient in literally everything else mentioned in this article (Selenium, magnesium, K2, D, C, A) as well as vitamin E. What’s more is that any deficiencies in those other vitamins can throw one after another off because all of them work together and they all come back to the thyroid. You throw one off, you are throwing the rest off and just that much closer to having deficiencies in many or all of them.

  3. Chris,
    We bought your Healthy Baby Code several years ago and now have three children. What are your recommendations for supplementing wisely for children?

  4. Hello Chris,

    I’ve been taking a b complex supplement for 8 months now everday which contains 50mg b6 in total (combination of the most common form and also P5P) and now did a test for b6 levels. It really scared me when I found out that I had an overdose (I don’t know the unit anymore but it was as high as 130 when the normal reference range is only up to 30..).
    I had different health issues before I started the supplementation so I don’t really know if that overdose is contributing to any of those (especially regarding the nervous system). The only problem that I am quite sure is really due to the overdose is a slight pain in my feet but that doesn’t bother me that much…
    Any thoughts on what I should do about it besides stopping supplementation?
    The test was done by a general practitioner who said I should just stop it but do you think it’s acute and I should go to a neurology department or something?


  5. Invaluable post . I was enlightened by the info . Does someone know if my business might access a fillable IRS 1040 – Schedule D example to use ?

  6. Anytime I try to supplement with Magnesium the result is diarrhea. I’d love to know of a source which does not have this result.

    I can use epsom salt baths in weak amounts, but I’m diabetic and have been told not to use those.

  7. The concept of food synergy provides the necessary theoretical underpinning. The evidence for health benefit appears stronger when put together in a synergistic dietary pattern than for individual foods or food constituents.

  8. Great article! Often it’s lifestyle that makes nutrition so difficult. Who has time? Take a little time to know how best to eat, which foods are best for which nutrients, and, as you exemplified, how helpful the right vitamins can be are all key ingredients to healthy living.

    Jerry Costman | Go Fuel Club

  9. Good steps for perfect health and which protein used for improve muscles and strength of body after workout… thanks for sharing more beneficial information………………….

  10. Chris, thank you for this phenomenal article that so closely matches the health protocols that I follow in my own healthy endeavors. I would like permission to replicate this article for the benefit of my circles of friends with your permission.
    I would also like to respectfully add a few thoughts.
    I agree with Helen’s posting on:
    AUGUST 3, 2014 AT 1:11 PM
    I think many are iodine deficient in addition to the nutrients you listed in the article.
    Most Vitamin C supplements are ascorbic acid, which is not Vitamin C.
    It is a good idea to mix in some magnesium threonate to the magnesium regimen. It’s the only form that will pass the blood brain barrier.
    Contact me for references Chris.

  11. Hi Chris,

    I have been doing a lot of research recently, including your excellent website, but to be honest I am only becoming more and more confused with the conflicting information available!

    I do not consider myself to be “unhealthy” as such but do feel I could beenfit from supplementation as my diet is not always what it should be (alcohol/refined carbs etc).

    My plans for supplements have ranged from multivitamins/fish oil/chlorella/green powders in smoothies and so on. I try to eat oily fish but simply do not enjoy the taste, even more so the green powders.

    Having read your posts recently I am becoming convinced to look at replacing these with the fermented cod liver oil (FCLO). Can you please confirm if you consider the Green Pastures Butter Blend to be superior, or just to take the standard cod liver oil?

    Also, I am still interested in taking a form of chlorella/sprirulina supplement, but am slightly concerned about the level of Vitamin A I would be consuming. Would you consider such an approach to be within safe levels? I do not eat any liver and as far as I am aware no other foods contain significant levels of Vit A?

    Also if I do this (mainly to try to stick as much to whole foods as possible) would you consider me to be at risk of a deficiency in any other area (B vitamins etc)? I try to eat a fairly varied diet including meat/veg/fruit/nuts etc…

    Many thanks,


  12. From this blog we get to know about which and when supplement should be taken. As we all know that food is the natural source of nutrients and we all should take nutrients from the food whenever it is possible instead of supplements. Supplement should be taken with proper consultation of doctor or health expert as it can be harmful for our body if not taken appropriately. Supplement should be taken if there is deficiency of nutrients in the body or as per the need.

  13. I must caution you that MK7 is actually preferred over MK4 when taken in supplement form. That is because it is able to keep its natural properties; but MK4 is not able to be produced in supplement form from natural sources. It is produced from the tobacco plant. And actually, the MK7 form is more bio available and better absorbed as well.

  14. hi, chris.

    is there any harm in supplementing with 12mg of astaxanthin per day?

    while i like the fact that my skin seems to burn less easily and looks more supple when taking it, i am concerned about the high anti-oxidant content.

    furthermore, do you have any general thoughts on astaxanthin?

    many thanks!

  15. Iodine – Stop the fear mongering. Iodine is a necessary nutrient. That was why it was added to salt – a necessary nutrient. Unfortunately, though regular salt is unhealthy because it doesn’t have the companion trace minerals in its natural form. Best to consume & even add Celtic/Himalayan Salt to your drinking water, but you don’t get the iodine.
    Also, once you open up iodized salt, the iodine evaporates, so you are NOT getting the iodine in your daily salt anyway.

    Iodine was used by all doctors to treat nearly all ailments (due to so much deficiency in the diet) for many years until..yes, guess what… until the pharmaceutical companies started pushing thyroid drugs. Drugs that don’t fix the problem, but “manage” while they profit greatly. Thyroid meds actually require MORE iodine supplementation. Your thyroid, heart, brain, major organs NEED iodine. And it takes awhile of larger doses to get these organs saturated to start working properly again and to stop cancer.

    Breast cancers and prostate cancers are being cured with iodine. Don’t believe it?, then do your research, but based on those doctors/researchers who actually have treated with iodine and not the media/bigPharma controlled ones or those that just have been trained improperly and haven’t unlearned the b.s. Do your own research and make your own choices, but at least check out these sources below and many more, once you start to learn who to actually trust.

    Educate yourself about why you DO need to supplement with iodine. One of the biggest reasons is that iodine was an ingredient in bread-making, but was replaced by bromides which the body will absorb more readily than iodine, making us even more iodine-deficient and toxic. Here are some links to handouts on how to supplement safely with links to sources. Even Hashimotos and Graves patients can supplement safely with iodine, but you MUST do the reading to help yourselves. Don’t believe the same doctors’ fear-mongering about iodine – the same doctors who push unhealthy cholesterol drugs which are managing a false condition and are making people so much more sick while they profit.

    I belong to a Facebook iodine group and have learned so much from the members there who share their experiences. Real people; real experiences, based on real research from people who care and aren’t out to take your $.

    These are just a few links I took the time to find and share. But from here you can find tons of other articles and youtube videos on the subject to watch if you learn better from hearing the information.





  16. Hi Chris,

    Great article, thanks. Sorry if you have already answered this, but would I get enough k2 from high vitamin butter oil plus about 2 tablespoons of grass-fed ghee and 3-6 pastured egg yolks per day? Is there any need to supplement with k2 on top of this?

    Also, a question about FCLO – vitamins aside, is there enough EPA/DHA in this that there would be no need to supplement fish oil. I rarely eat oily fish, but do always eat grass-fed meat. I currently supplement 1 tsp fish oil per day. I am wondering whether the FCLO could replace this.


  17. Hello..I am reading all these discussions and wanted to know more about two things. I take Nordic Naturals, Arctic D Cod Liver Oil…there is so much debate out there between this one and Green Pastures. I have been taking it for awhile and have felt great, but I don’t want to be putting toxic synthetic stuff in me. There is so much out there that it gets darn confusing for us all to know what is best. And has anyone heard about Juice Plus? I hear its amazing because it is whole foods encapsulated.

  18. 12.5 – 50 mg of iodine is dangerous and potentially lethal (thyroid cancer). Japanese intake is on average 1000 to 3000 mg via seaweed in their diet. Of that, even less is actually absorbed into their bloodstream. Supplements absorb more readily and quickly. The fact that people suggest building up a “tolerance” to excessive levels is telling. A tolerance to iodine simply means your thyroid is over saturated and is no longer absorbing nearly as much (in order to save you from yourself) AND your kidneys are flooding your urine with the excess iodine to get it out of your body (in order to save you from yourself). You should NEVER try to build up a “tolerance” to extreme dosages of supplements.

    On average, you are currently consuming 40 to 70 mcg per day. If you actually needed 12.5 to 50 mg a day you would be dead right now due to massive lack of iodine. It is you may have a microgram deficit and not truly realize it. It is impossible to need 12.5 to 50 mg of something each day, only get 70 mcg of that substance each day and not have major symptoms such as goiter or even death. You may be getting 40 to 70 mcg a day (on average) but actually need 200 to 300 mcg. You still are low but the difference is not so drastic that it has caused a goiter or killed you yet. There is absolutely ZERO logic to the 12.5 to 50 mg recommendation.

    This is a very dangerous and potentially lethal daily dose of iodine, which can result in thyroid cancer many years later. When 26% of the people develop health issues from iodine toxicity, will they realize it was the excessive iodine that caused it? When another 24% of the people who chose to megadose on iodine develop cancer 15 years from now I am certain they will regret taking such massive doses of iodine. DO NOT TAKE MASSIVE DOSES OF IODINE!

  19. Chris,

    A Cyrex lab test showed I was cross-reactive to Milk Butyrophilin. I would like to take Green Pastures butter capsules for K2. Can you tell me if butter oil contains the Milk Butyrophilin protein? Thank you.

  20. Hi Chris,
    I have a severely compromised digestive system, I’ve been eating Gaps/scd/paleo for over 10 years with no relief. My diet is highly restrictive. I’ve been contemplating taking Barley Grass( I have a sample ) however I am hesitant. I know I need extra nutrients. As I cannot eat fish, eggs, chicken and most veggies or fruit. diet consists of sweet potatoes, squash, most meats, romaine, sauerkraut, olives, ghee/coconut oil, tiny amount of nut butters. I need more nuutrients, as I am basically eating once a day. … any feed back on “grass powders”?? Thank you!! Dora

  21. Timeless article Chris.
    How important is timing and combination of these supplements. I know some affect the absorption of others and some may be better in the morning, with our without meals?

    Thanks in advance and please keep up your good work.

  22. I’ve read this post several times, and am wondering if you’ve changed any of your recommendations since writing it? Since the posts aren’t dated, although the comments are, it’s difficult to be sure which are your latests opinions. Thanks!

  23. Chris, This is a fantastic article and thankfully i’ve learned over time to whittle my supplement regime down to what you recommend. I’ve always found multivitamins make me extremely anxious, bad tempered and break out in spots, so i’ve learnt the hard way to avoid them. Perhaps it’s the synthetic vitamins that do this?
    Magnesium malate is fantastic and always relieves my head ache and I find cod liver oil really up lifts my mood and generally gives me more energy and sense of well being. I’m trying to avoid acorbic acid as it seems to make my skin flare up so i’m currently waiting for a whole food Acerola Cherry supplement to arrive. i think i need extra Vit C in my diet since i mainly only eat apples and the very occasional orange, although i do have some bell peppers and tomatos on my sandwiches most days of the week (I always worry that because some of my salad is frozen for longer than it probably should be that the Vit C will have degraded?)
    Thanks again for the great article.

  24. Nik….I need help. I have recently been to the dr and my blood work says I am chronically anemic, Vitamin D deficient, Hypothyroid…among others but these are the most significant. I have been taking Synthroid for 9 years constantly increasing, the iron pills NEVER work and now I have, for the past two years, begun swelling all over. Legs mainly. I am so weak and feel like I have run a marathon every second of every day. Why do my doctors not listen to me? I want to treat the cause not the symptom. I am wanting to self medicate. I want to take Iodium 10x 3/day, 85mg vegetarian iron hema-plex, 400mg liquid magnesium and 400IU vitamin E. Do you think this will kill me, because at this point…I’m ready….not suicidal… just tired.

    • Dear Carla. I take Hema Plex for the iron before bed so it doesn’t interfere with Armour thyroid and I take Vit D3 before lunch about 4000 iu. My vitamin D has gone up. Have you tried natural dessicated thyroid. Works better for me but was great on Armour for 13 years but then blood sugar started going up and went through 5 different meds and they made my thyroid medicine race. Now controlling with diet and cinnamon capsules. Take vit C. Chewable calcium. Vit E. Adrenal Complex. DHea 10mg compounded time release for headaches. Magnesium. Multivitamin. Any suggestions for when Armour starts to make me anxious about 3-4 hours after taking. Chewable calcium usually helps. I’m taking 60mg in am and then 30mg at dinner. I had a TT in 2000

  25. The more I understand nutrition and health the more I start to realize that older cultures (Japanese, Chinese, Eastern European) had it right a long time ago. Seaweed seems to be a great choice for balancing the 2:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium. It has a lot of both as well a vitamin C. Plus it’s tasty!

  26. Hi Chris,
    I am on the web reading about vitamin brands. It’s tough to take take it all in and know which one to trust since it is a money-making industry. In the last year I have taken mostly Solgar brand, specifically their B-Complex, Omega 3 EPA & DHA and Omnium (Multi). I am also taking Designs for Health brand Magnesium Glycinate Chelate.

    I recently ran out of my Omnium and a health food store owner recommended I switch brands periodically to get the most benefit (?) so I bought a New Zealand brand called Goodhealth. It is a Women’s Multi & Mineral.

    I live in Mauritius and only get home to the USA once every two years so I try to stock up on good vitamins for the family. I really need help choosing the right brands.

  27. For vitamin D, twenty minutes of exposure to sunlight a day should be enough for most people to reach their daily requirements. However, during the Winter months in the higher latitudes, the amount of sunlight is often not sufficient, hence we dig into our stores from the rest of the year.

  28. Hi Chris, Great article. Interesting about the magnesium. I feel like I have my bases covered but now thinking I should supplement. Funny lately I sometime get numbness in my hands and/or feet. I’m just curious because I’ve always believed you should get supplement s in whole food form. What’s the difference between magnesium like glycinate/ malate and Mega Foods magnesium (they use spinach) Confused on which to take and why. It would be great if you could shed the light. Thanks!

  29. What about building bones? I have read calcium is useless to take but I have a fracture that won’t heal and am a healthy 40 year old athlete with a 1 year old who is still nursing. I have been on paleo for 10 years. Can you suggest something for my brittle bones? Since I was young I have been told I had weak bones after years of riding a bike.

  30. Hi Chris,

    Great series of articles.

    I started taking a magnesium supplement. I took the first tablet in the morning and that night I woke up with a really bad headache and nausea. I didn’t realize it was the magnesium so I took it again the next day and still have this headache and nausea, although its resided a bit now. I also noticed my joints are a bit sore, stiff and cracking a bit. (I’m only 29). I’m fairly sure this is the magnesium? Are you able to comment on this please? Is it possible its the magnesium?

  31. Glad to see I am good with all of these supplements except the K2. You are right, I have never heard of it. Will check it out – thanks for the good information.

  32. Hi Chris, how much of the green pasture cod liver oil should we take per day to meet your vitamin A recommendations? The bottle doesn’t say what the dose of vitamin A is so it’s hard to judge…

  33. Hello everyone,

    I work in a medical environment as a tech. Today one of our nurses was talking with the Nurse Practitioner about a patient who has been having trouble sleeping. They said they’ve tried everything to help including OTC sleep aids. I made a suggestion to the nurse to suggest supplementing with magnesium. I said at least 60% of Americans were deficient in magnesium, the NP quickly replied “No they’re not” in a very condescending manner. I quickly printed off a study that showed the results were 60-80%.

    I’m amazed that so many in the medical community know very little about what our bodies truly need, and diet an nutrition in general.


  34. I started taking Green Pasture’s FCLO/BO combo several months ago at the recommendation of my midwife since I was having headaches and other discomforts. Previously, magnesium had helped with this, but it seemed to be an insufficient amount. Happy to say that the switch away from synthetic vitamins (D, folic acid, etc) to the Royal Blue Ice, an increased dose of magnesium malate has had obvious impacts – no more headaches! And I totally agree with Jack on the cinnamon tingle flavor actually being yummy (can’t stand the chocolate cream though my hubby and 4 y/o seem content with it). It’s also cheaper from Spirit of Health than Amazon with free shipping if you order in bulk. *I have to also credit my midwife for really opening our eyes to organic produce, grass-fed beef, wild seafood, whole-fat dairy, etc. 5 years ago when we first conceived.

    As far as “dosage”, I get that it’s a food so its vitamin content varies, but better guidance for the combo would be helpful. It’s 2/3 FCLO and 1/3 BO. Based on that and the lengthy and confusing recommendations on the Weston Price site, I came up with the following: 3 tsp per day for me (pregnant woman), 2 tsp for hubby, and 1 tsp for my son. Does that sound about right?

    Glad to have discovered your blog and look forward to checking out the Healthy Baby Code!

    • *correction

      that should have said that I switched to “Royal Blue Ice, MegaFoods Baby & Me food-based prenatal for folate and B vitamins, and an increased dose of magnesium malate”.

  35. I take a whole foods multi (new chapter perfect prenatal & nordic naturals dha+d) during pregnancy. Would you advise against that? And if so, what supplements would you reccomend during pregnancy?

  36. Chris, since the brand of supplement can make so much difference, it would be really helpful to know a few brands that you feel are of high quality. Specifically, I’m wondering what brands of Magnesium are high quality?

  37. Taking 5mL Green Pasture FCLO daily – how much of your A, D and K2 needs will be covered? Do you need to supplement beyond that – and if yes how much?

  38. Chris,

    I had an interesting experience with Iodized table salt. For about 2 weeks now, I have dropped regular salt for Pink Himalayan salt. It occurred to me the other night that I might be needing iodine (I’m not well versed on other good sources or symptoms of Iodine deficiency). Anyhow, I made some eggs and added iodized salt instead of Himal Pink, and within 2 hours, I was dead tired. I woke up the next morning and felt like I had no energy/lethargic, and this feeling lasted for nearly half the day!

    As far as I can think, that was the only thing I had done/eaten differently. What are your thoughts? I may try it again tonight, to try and narrow it down, but I hadn’t felt that de-energized in a long time.

  39. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for all of the excellent info! I’m wondering about magnesium supplementation and tiredness. Whenever I take only 100mg of Mg glycinate at night, I feel simply wiped-out the next day and heavy-headed. Any thoughts on this? I rarely take the supplement because of this, but I know it’s important.

    Thank you!

  40. Chris,

    Saw this article, http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/which-vitamin-k2-supplement-is-best-mk-4-or-mk-7/ from Sarah Pope of the Healthy Home Economist blog. She references a book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue BSc, ND (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1118065727?ie=UTF8&tag=theheahomec0a-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=1118065727) claiming the Mk-7 variant of K2 is superior because the MK-4 variant is synthetic and derived from the tobacco plant and also that the MK-4 variant stays active in the body for a shorter time.

    Do you have an opinion on this?


  41. Hi Chris,

    Wow, thank you for sharing this great information and responding to so many comments! This article has motivated me to try a CLO/BO combination as a supplement since I live in a climate with limited sun.

    I have to admit that I’m feeling confused about magnesium. You mentioned that it is rare in foods and a quick Google search confirms that most foods containing significant amounts of magnesium either wouldn’t have been part of a natural diet (e.g. grains) or would have been rare and difficult to obtain (e.g. molasses, nuts, etc).

    What would our ancestors have eaten that provided magnesium? My goal is to get all of my nutrition from food or food derived sources. I eat sardines and eggs daily and liver weekly since I know these are all powerful foods when it comes to nutrients. Do you have any recommendations for food sources for magnesium besides nuts?

    Thank you,


  42. Thank you for a very informative post and website. I note that your basic recommendations do not include B complex, which is frequently recommended for various conditions including fatigue and mood disorders. As you know, B complex pills contain far far more of certain vitamins than one could ever get in the diet, perhaps because the manufacturers know most of them will not be absorbed. If you already commented on B complex I apologize for missing it, but would be interested in your thoughts. Personally, I take an “active” B complex, and in the past have taken a “whole food” B complex.

  43. Hi,
    I really love you work. I spent a long time reading and digging around and never really geot to the bottom of things and ultimately need to confide in someone who spends and devotes their life to research. I now confide in your podcast, and other stuff that you do – thank you.
    I’ve been paleo for 18 months and influence my children as much as possible, but without 100% success. I’m always working on other ideas to generate more success, but as with many things, I would like a support net in place. I would like to know if this article would be written any different if you we’re targeting it to the next generation – our children. What supplements would it be narrowed down to, amounts and which brands (if I’m using you as a one stop shop, as lots of people do, we would prefer to know what to take, why we take it, when we take it and which brand – we know your hearts in the right place and your not peddling brands for kudos.
    My boy is 9 and my girl is 12. Both extremely sporty and strength train for sport as well. There always on the go and i’m like a walking fridge most of the time, keeping them topped up with carbs and protein before during and after. However, every time I think I’m getting it right I read something suggesting otherwise. What supplements should they be taking to keep things on track. Kids often don’t eat all the right things or at the most appropriate times. Nutrition for basic life seem to differ considerably to sports nutrition and sports nutrition seems more divided on opinion. Help is required from one father to another!

  44. At Whole Foods you can find a product called “Strauss Free Raised premium calf liver”. It’s usually in the freezer right near the meats section.

    It’s perfect to get your Vitamin A (not to mention just about every mineral), and it doesn’t taste anywhere near as gamey as beef liver. In fact, it’s *almost* delicious, especially when cooked in some Kerry Gold. 🙂

  45. Hi Chris, i was wondering, what supplement would you suggest for a pregnant women?and if there is a particular brand you would recommend. thank you very much

    • That’s a hard question to answer. There are many considerations. Fermented cod liver oil is a great choice for most pregnant women, as is extra folate. Check out my Healthy Baby Code program for more detail on this subject. http://healthybabycode.com

  46. Dear Chris,
    I am more interested to know about the folic acid supplementation vs folate dietary intake.

    The following studies both state that folate absorption from supplements were better than dietary sources:

    Geraldine J Cuskelly, Helene McNulty, and John M Scott, Effect of Increasing Dietary Folate on Red-cell Folate: Implications for Prevention of Neural Tube Defects, Lancet 34 7(9002): 65 7-659 (9 Mar 1996) [Correspondence: Helene McNulty, Phd, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland, UK]


    What are your thoughts on this?

  47. I’ve tried Green Pastures CLO + Butter Oil blend but I notice it lists the 2 pill dose as providing 1800 IU of Vitamin A. Here you say CLO is a good source for Vit A and people should be looking to take in over 10,000 IU a day. That’s a hell of a lot of pills – over ten a day. Especially for an expensive supplement.

    How much CLO do you take?

    By the way, a favorite snack for my Polish family when I was growing up was tinned cod liver laid out over cream cheese on bread. I know the bread is anathema but just saying cod liver out of the tin is a real treat.

  48. Hi
    is 100mcg/d of MK-4 going to help? I’m supplementing with 10000 IU-vitamin A and 2400 IU-Vitamin D
    Just because K2 supplements are more expensive.

  49. Chris,

    I’m really enjoying this series and I really appreciate you sharing this information. My question is about Vitamin D. I’ve always heard that 30 minutes in the sunlight produces so much Vitamin D but I’ve always wondered how much skin exposure is normally tested. In other words, you mentioned with pale skin, 30 minutes of direct sunlight will produce 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D. Is this measured with a certain amount of skin exposed like short sleeve shirt, face exposed or shirt off etc.?

  50. Wow. I just found and read your articles from mid 2010 on Iodine and Hypothyroidism. I didn’t know you had done so much work on that topic. I hope I am not making a mistake by beginning iodine supplemenation with the kelp tablets. I have seen on multiple sites that iodine supplementation is probably a good idea for most people, and that the vast majority of folks are deficient from their diet. So I finally took the leap. From what I understand, it takes quite a while to see any differences if I am even going to at all, like 6 months or something.

  51. Chris,

    Some Paleo folk report improved skin hydration after choosing to supplement with Iodine. Do you see any particular possible reason for this, perhaps related to thyroid function?

    Yesterday, I ordered this bottle of Kelp tablets from KAL. It provides 225mg of iodine in the form of Kelp. Is this a decent choice? I tried to get one without a bunch of weirdo ingredients and this was one of the more pure choices.


    Jack Kronk

    • Dry skin is a symptom of hypothyroidism, so I imagine your guess is correct. I think you mean 225 mcg, but that’s probably a good choice.

  52. Really enjoying this series, Chris. I’m a little confused about magnesium supplementation. The brand I use says ” Magnesium Malate, 1000 mg 150mg of Elemental Magnesium ” on the label. Looking at the ingredients list, it states “Calcium, 100mg and Magnesium, 150mg from 1000 mg Magnesium Malate.” So which amount do I use to measure my intake of this? Using the elemental amount, a person would take 3-4 of these daily to achieve 450-600 mg range?


  53. Hi Chris: What do you think about using Brewers Yeast as a supplement? I’ve read that this is considered a nutrient dense food. Thank you, Mark

  54. Hi Chris,

    Loving this series! A few comments:
    You mentioned how trans-fats from grass-fed dairy and trans-fats from processed foods are not the same… you also discuss the concept of “food synergy” and avoiding reductionist thinking… but then it seems like you’re ignoring those two points when you recommend avoiding Brazil Nuts because of their PUFAs?? Maybe the PUFAs when consumed with selenium and other undiscovered nutrients/compounds in Brazil Nuts would not have the same negative effect as the nasty, oxidized PUFAs in processed oils?

    Also, with all the players in bone density (physical activity, acid load, vitamin K, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, etc), I doubt we have good studies that have looked at all these factors, and I highly doubt that we have enough evidence to say that “bone density peaks at 25(OH)D level 45 ng/mL.”

    Finally, thank you for bringing up the elevated serum calcium issue. With so many people supplementing with vitamin D, I think there needs to be more discussion about the cofactors needed to ensure vitamin D can do its work, and also how to avoid possible negative effects (e.g. elevated serum calcium).

    Thanks for your excellent work!

  55. Mike: neither ghee or butter oil are caesin free, but they are lactose free. Casein is the protein, lactose the sugar. Different people react to different things. If you react to casein, you may (or may not) react to B.O. If you tolerate ghee, you’d be even less likely to react to B.O. I think.

  56. I’ve been thinking about getting butter oil, but I wanted to check with you about dairy intolerance. We seem to tolerate ghee in moderate amounts, and I assume that butter oil is at least as safe as ghee, but it would be nice to make sure. Is butter oil really casein-free?

  57. Could you link the studies showing the ineffectiveness and danger of multivitamins? I am hypothyroid and after seeing a better qualified doctor we discovered that I was deficient in several nutrients. I started taking the Metagenics w/o iron twice a day, Vit D and Iron in the evening so this did not bind to my dose of Armour. I saw nice improvements after a few months and since going 100% Paleo I’m hoping to see even bigger improvements when I get my results next week. I’m curious as to why the individual supplements would work but not the multivitamins with the same nutrients. I also found it interesting that the study on folic acid was with people receiving the folic acid with gluten. Thanks!

  58. Thanks for another useful post, Chris. Personally, I eat sweet potatoes 2 to 3 times a week, and get regular sunshine each day (I’m live in the Equator — Singapore), so I guess I’m probably not in urgent need of vitamin A and D. My daily cabbage kimchi fix may also be a sufficient source of vitamin C. But, I’m not so sure about K2 and magnesium. I’d have to look for some ways to fill the gaps. I’ve heard a few people talked about fermented cod liver oil and butter oil. Seems like Green Pasture is the brand to go with. Is taking butter oil the same as taking butter itself? Since I seem to have a thing for fermented foods (love my kimchi and natto), I may just give Green Pasture’s fermented CLO/butter oil blend a try one day. The only show stopper is the cost. Since it’s not available where I live, the cost, including overseas shipping, is jaw-dropping for a bottle of oil.

  59. Chris, I’m a little bit surprised that you recommend such a high dose of iodine. There has been a lot of conflicting literature on optimal dose. Many people have actually inhibited their thyroid hormones at large doses. Recommending 12.5mg to 50mg when the RDA is 150mcg doesn’t seem that prudent without a lot of explanation. I know you could probably give an explanation — but a disclaimer might be warranted.

    Also, I see you recommend 1mg of MK-4 a day, but say you take butter oil for your K2– do you supplement both or what is your dose of the butter oil?

    Do you have an optimum form of vitamin c?

    Thanks for your articles!

  60. Chris –

    Love this series so far. Thanks!

    I cannot consume fish due to allergy issues. I am eating an “adequate” quantity of pastured eggs and full fat dairy, and also taking 2000 IU Vitamin D supplement (since I drink milk that is not Vitamin D fortified). Is that an acceptable alternative to Cod Liver Oil?


  61. Anyone know a supplement that contains all the protection from Advanced Glycation End-products, or AGEs?

    Namely one that contains all the amino acids:
    N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

  62. Alex,

    Blue Ice Royal… chocolate cream is awful, but the cinnamon tingle taste like cinnamon gummy bears or hot tamales, seriously. It’s not unpleasant at all.

    But lemme tell you, I took the Olso Orange flavor of FCLO (the liquid). It was positively disgusting. I might rather take a spoon of sewage. Maybe I got a bad bottle or something, but switching to the cinnamon tingle combo gel was a very welcomed change for me.

  63. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the excellent post. Do you think Natural Calm is a good source of magnesium? Also, if so is it okay to take the flavored kind, sweetened with stevia?

    As far blue ice royal, do any of the flavors taste good? Or do you take the capsules?

    Do you think most people can benefit from digestive enzymes and probiotics?


  64. For Magnesium supplementation, I’ve been using Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil. It’s a transdermal magnesium. The benefit is you can use a ton of it to replenish your levels, and you won’t get the laxative effect associated with oral magnesium.

  65. In japan, there is a condition known as ‘wakiga’… which we refer to as a disorder that causes an unusual body odor that is not associated with uncleanliness. By all accounts it is a personal (unpleasant) scent that is not localized and cannot be washed/scrubbed or masked away.. There is even experimental surgery for it, but it has been received with limited success.

    My spouse has this condition and I’m curious in your study of Chinese medicine, if you’ve ever heard of this rare disease. We’ve noticed at least one supplement, choline, that makes it worse, but perhaps there’s others that can make it more tolerable.

    Thanks So Much ,

  66. Jack: you’re probably in good shape unless you’re dealing with a chronic illness that might benefit from increased Mg supplementation. Red palm oil is an excellent source of E. I know what you mean – it does have a strong taste.

  67. Chris,

    Excellent article. Supplementation is a tricky subject with a lot of questionables. You really covered a broad spectrum here.

    Regarding Magnesium, I get 3 sources from natural foods:
    1. I eat wild sardines from Wild Planet brand about once per week.
    2. I eat raw almonds/pecans (the whole nuts or a spoonful of nut butter) pretty much daily. I know you recommend a watchful eye on too much nut consumption for their omega6, but I do have a very healthy diet full of omega3. Also, I soak/sprout/dehydrate the nuts first, then make homemade nut butter. At any rate, whether that’s too much O6 from nuts or not, this is what I’m doing.
    3. I take a spoonful of raw cacao powder regularly, either for a nice cup of hot cocoa or chocolate raw milk, or sometimes I add it to my post workout drink for flavor. Raw cacao is exceptionally high in magnesium.

    Do you think these 3 sources would mean that I am getting sufficient magnesium in an otherwise nutrient rich diet full of other items like pastured dairy (butter, cream, raw milk, ghee) and grass fed beef?

    Also, I take the Green Pastures blend daily (just the half tsp recommended dose at this time). I’m wondering if eating a tablespoon per day of virgin red palm oil is a good idea for vitamin A and natural vitamin E. I am not fond of the flavor, but I’ve read so much positive about it, I am willing to learn to tolerate it if I know it’s beneficial enough.

    Thanks Chris. Really appreciate all of your hard work in compiling these write ups. Your efforts carry great value.

    -Jack Kronk

    magnesium, raw caco powder, sadines, almonds/pecans

    vit a/e in palm oil

  68. I use Apex supplements in my practice, but not for any of the nutrients I discussed in the article. I use them for more specific therapeutic goals.

  69. Just another question for Chris. I’ve been taking 2000IU D3 for a blood level of 45 ng/ml. If it started taking 5mL FCLO, should I drop this down or??

  70. The acerola product seems to have some ascorbic acid in it in addition to the acerola extract. Another option is the buffered ascorbic acid, which can be taken on an empty stomach.

  71. For Green Pasture FCLO, I suggest 5mL as a maintenance dose, but up to 15mL for short-term therapeutic benefits.

    I don’t recommend supplementing with B12 unless you’re deficient or have an absorption problem like pernicious anemia. Deficiency should be confirmed by testing methylmalonic acid, which is a more accurate marker than serum B12.

    I like the Pure acerola better than the ascorbic acid.

  72. @Laura

    They are both 8oz bottles (237ml) and the dosages they recommend are fairly low in my opinion. (2ml)

    In a post above Chris states, “I recommend 5mL of each as a maintenance dose.” I take 8ml of each one per day because that works out to a 30 day supply. Chris’s recommendation makes each one last 45 days.

  73. Hi Chris,
    Love your site and your ability to convey your information. I have a question about the Green Pastures products. I am interested in trying the FCLO and HVBO or their combo. I can’t really make sense on their site about dosages. How much do you take per day to get your recommended amounts? I understand that as a real food there will be fluctuations in each batch and I am fine with that. I would rather take a whole real food but would like your guidance as to dosage. Thanks!

  74. @Mike- thanks…I get plenty of animal foods, but I think I might have had an absorption problem. My current B12 is methyl, it dissolves under the tongue. The B complex that I’m moving to has 1.7 mg of Riboflavin (B2), 20 mg of niacin, 2 mg of B6, 1,200 mcg of B12 and 30 mg of pantothenic acid.

    The B12 in this new formula is cyanocobalamin, though – I’ll have to look into that as far as a usable form…

    I’ve been trying to find a multi-vitamin that covers the bulk of these vitamins/minerals – can anyone recommend a particular brand that they love?

  75. Ironically, vitamin C is also important for collagen formation. That’s why when you get scurvy, your body kind of falls apart. It’s also one reason smokers age more quickly. Tobacco smoke destroys collagen.

    Chris K., do you use the acerola capsules from Pure Prescriptions? I see they’ve got straight-up ascorbic acid but it seems to me the acerola might work better. Not that I’m all out to consume as much C as possible but, like you, I could see times I might want more of an intake.

  76. I agree that there may be issues with too much C. That’s one reason I said I felt less certain about it. On the other hand, there’s a lot of data suggesting it’s safe at higher doses. Personally, I don’t supplement with it on a regular basis, but I do use it if I feel I’m fighting a cold or infection of some sort.

  77. I’d like to make a comment on Vitamin C. I agree its a very important nutrient, but I think its interactions with other nutrients themselves have been overlooked by you and the Jaminets :-). Vitamin C seems to increase iron absorption and mobilization above normal levels, which can be harmful in just about anyone with normal ferritin. In addition, Vitamin C works as a copper antagonist in the body at doses above 500mg (don’t have time to find the paper right now). Copper, as the Jaminet’s note, is very important for healthy collagen and heart structure, so excess Vitamin C here again might be harmful. Whadya think?

  78. Oh man, looking at green pastures – shipping alone is around 80 USD. Purchasing CLD from there will probably negate the intended effect since being poor is also bad for your health, right? Seems us northerners are out of luck.

  79. Beth: that’s exactly right. To my knowledge, all commercial CLO manufacturers remove the natural vitamins before processing, with one exception: Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. Because it’s processed by fermentation rather than heat, they leave the natural vitamins intact. It’s the product I take myself and recommend.

    Tracee: yes, grass-fed butter definitely has K2. It’s one of the best sources.

  80. Read an article a while ago that suggested that some (many?) commercial cod liver oils strip the natural A & D vitamins out in processing and then add synthetic back in, sometimes at not healthy ratios. The recommendation, as I recall, was to be very picky about your choice of CLO supplement.

  81. Hi Chris,

    Many thanks for these educational posts! Here in Sweden there aren’t alot of alternatives when it comes to cod liver oil. Across the border in Norway, however, the state department of health recommends something called Möller’s tran for all citizens. Its content per 5 ml:
    Vitamin D 10 mcg
    Vitamin A 250 mcg
    Vitamin E 10 mg
    Omega-3 fatty acids 1.2 g
    – of which 0.6 g DHA
    – of which 0.4 g EPA

    As you can see, the dosage here (5 ml/day) is quite below your recomendations. What would be a reasonable ml/day in your opinon?

    • Hi Chris- what would be your daily dose rec on FCLO/BO pills? 6 pills? My kids are able to take the liquid with elderberry syrup, but I just can’t hold it down.



  82. Chris
    What do you think about the fermented CLO and high vitamin butter oil combo offered by Green Pastures. The cod liver oil and the butter oil separately are quite expensive so I wondered if the combo would be effective. Also I know there’s this synergy between vitamin A & D in CLO and K2 in butter oil.

    Thanks for another really informative article.


  83. Jenn, my understanding of B12 is that most animal foods have a good supply as long as not everything you eat is horribly overcooked. But many people seem to have an absorption problem due to low stomach acid or lack of intrinsic factor. For that reason I’ve heard that the most effective B12 supplements are the sublingual lozenges.

    I’ve also heard that methyl B12 and dibencozide (adenosylcobalamin) are the only usable forms. I’d be interested to hear what Chris has to say about it.

  84. You say Vitamin E is toxic, but I think you’re just referring to the alpha-tocopherol. Would supplementing with a mixed tocopherol provide any benefit? It seems strange to me that you would recommend the other fat soluble vitamins and not Vitamin E.

  85. Bryan: in the case of these supplements, it doesn’t matter much. Magnesium and vitamin C may be better tolerated with food.

  86. Hey Chris. Another great article. Any recommendations on the timing of supplements? Should we take them all with breakfast? Spread them out over the day? or doesn’t really matter?

  87. DaninIdaho: no vitamin A in plant foods. That would be beta-carotene.

    Chris: it’s certainly not necessary. Whether it’s beneficial for you is impossible for me to say, but your diet seems great.

    Monte: yes, that’s a good dose of both. I recommend 5mL of each as a maintenance dose.

    Michelle: it depends on the supplement. I like Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil for A & D, and their butter oil for K2. Magnesium and Vitamin C I usually use Pure Prescriptions.

    • What flavor of Green Pastures Cod Liver oil do you recommend? I think you said Arctic Mint in another post, but what flavor butter oil do you like then? And if you get the combined kind, what flavor? Thank you.

    • Chris,
      Regarding your recommendation to take 5 ml (one teaspoon) butter oil daily:
      According to David Wetzel of Green Pastures, the predominant purveyor of butter oil, 5 to 6 pounds of heavy whipping cream, which has the same fat content as 2.5 pounds of butter, are required to make 8 ounces of butter oil. Eight ounces of butter oil therefore have the same vitamin K2 content as 2.5 pounds of butter, a five to one ratio. A dose of 5 ml of butter oil will therefore have the same vitamin K2 content as 25 grams of butter if all K2 is recovered in the processing. Assuming that the vitamin K2 content of butter is 15 mcg per 100 ml, the vitamin k2 content of butter oil would be 4.2 mcg which is a long way from the recommended 100 mcg daily intake.

      Of course, pasture butter is said to have higher vitamin K2 content than “regular” butter but how much more seems to be unknown. Green Pastures does not reveal the vitamin K2 content of their butter oil. It seems very unlikely, however, that one teaspoon of butter oil will provide anything close to 100 mcg of vitamin K2. Regardless of the vitamin K2 content of the milk from which the butter oil is made, the vitamin K2 content of a teaspoon of butter oil equates, at best, to the vitamin K2 content of 25 grams of the butter from which it is made.

      I get good raw milk pasture butter delivered for $10 a pound. At $10 per pound of butter and a ratio of 5;1 concentration of vitamin K2, it takes $25 worth of butter to get the same vitamin K2 content as $50 worth of butter oil at $50 per 8 ounces. In my opinion, butter is far more tasty than butter oil and, further, it contains many nutrients that are lost in making butter oil.

      The vitamin K2 content of my daily intake of butter is far more than that from a teaspoon of butter oil but, in my opinion, far less than needed and far less than my daily intake of K2 from other sources such as raw milk, aged raw milk cheese, liver, bone broth, meat and eggs.

      • The recommendation is for 2.5 mL of fermented cod liver oil as a maintenance dose, and 5mL as a therapeutic dose. I recommend 4 caps per day of the FCLO/BO blend. I don’t recommend 5mL of the butter oil alone.

        • You recommend that people should aim for 100 mcg of vitamin K2 from food and supplements but then go on to recommend 1 mg/day of mk-4 vitamin K2 which is 10 times the first recommendation of 100 mcg.

          I agree with your recommendations on cod liver oil but see value in taking it with butter oil which contributes very little to your recommended intake of 100 to 1000 mcg vitamin K2.

          Based on the published vitamin K2 content of butter of 15 mcg per 100 grams and a five to one concentration of the vitamin K2 in butter oil, a half teaspoon of butter oil contains about 2 mcg of vitamin K2 which is 2% of the recommended dose of 100 mcg and 0.2% of the recommended dose of 1 mg/day. The small amount of vitamin K2 in a half teaspoon of butter oil does not balance well with the vitamin A and vitamin D content of an equal amount of cod liver oil.

          The vitamin K2 content of butter from pastured cows may be higher than the published value of 15 mcg per 100 grams but no one seems to know what kind of butter the figure is based on. The manufacturers of butter oil do not publish the vitamin K2 content of their product. I see no reason to believe that the pastured butter used by butter oil used in making butter oil has any more vitamin K2 than the raw milk butter from pastured cows which is widely available. The sale of butter oil seems to be based on myth, not facts. Why not just eat butter made from milk of pastured cows?

    • I’m confused about K2 supplementation. I currently take a nice teaspoon of CLO/Vitamin Butter Oil blend, and I’m trying to understand if I still need to supplement further with K2.

      Also, you don’t mention Calcium. I’ve been taking a high quality Cal/Mag supplement – is that not a good idea? I also take a high quality Multi. Thanks so much.

      • Just to clarify – I meant is it beneficial to take additional magnesium alone as opposed to taking it in combination with Calcium? I eat wild canned salmon daily as well, so I’m getting Calcium there.

        In terms of CLO/Butter Oil blend dosages, I don’t take capsules, just eat it off the spoon. So, does a full teaspoon or a little more okay?

        Thanks again.

      • Debbie,

        Based on data given from David Wetzel, who was the first to produce butter oil around 1999 based on methods of Weston Price, the vitamin K2 content of a teaspoon of butter oil is calculated to be so low as to be almost worthless. The vitamin K2 content of butter oil is about the same as cheese and cheese is a lot cheaper and contains other beneficial nutrients as well.

        I eat about 2.5 ounces of raw milk cheese a day which provides a good part of the daily requirements of vitamin K2 and has about the same vitamin K2 content as 15 teaspoons of butter oil. I get more vitamin K2 from milk and butter. If you like dairy, ditch the butter oil and eat cheese milk and butter from pastured cows.

        Regarding calcium and magnesium, dairy products are and excellent source of calcium but a poor source of magnesium If you consume a lot of dairy you won’t need calcium supplements but you very much need magnesium supplements.

        • Debbie: CORRECTION: I erroneously based the foregoing comment on the vitamin K2 content of butter oil, not cod liver oil/butter oil blend.

          The blend contains 1/3 butter oil and 2/3 cod liver oil, so a teaspoon (5 ml) of the blend contains 1.67 ml butter oil.

          David Wetzel states that “It takes —five or six pounds of heavy cream to make eight ounces of X-factor Oil (butter oil).” Heavy cream is about 40% fat, butter is about 80% fat. Butter contains about 15 mcg vitamin K2 (mk4) per 100 mg.

          Based on the foregoing figures, 5 ml of butter oil blend contains about 1.4 mcg of vitamin K2 (mk-4) compared to the suggested (by many) daily supplement of 100 mcg.

          In contrast, the average intake of vitamin K2 of women in the Netherlands (Rotterdam study) was 27 mcg/day, of which 25% was mk4 and 75% mk5 and above. The majority of dietary vitamin K2 came from dairy, mostly cheese.

          The vitamin K2 content of butter varies greatly depending on soil conditions and nature of the grass that the cows feed on.. If the vitamin K2 content of the butter from which the butter oil is made is double that of the assumed 15 mcg K2 content of butter, the K2 content of a teaspoon of CO/BO blend would be 2.8 mcg which is a small percentage of the average daily intake of around 27 mcg and a smaller percentage of the suggested daily supplement of 100 mcg. Thus the benefits of “butter oil” seem largely imaginary.

  88. Thank you for discussing the difference between folic acid and folate, articles like yours will help this become a bit more widely known.

  89. Chris, do you think its okay to consume a bottle of FCLO along with a bottle of HVBO every 30 days?

    It works out to about 8ml of both FCLO and HVBO. In your experience what is a minimum effective dosage?

    I’ve already ordered both of them in preparation for an “orthodox” paleo diet I’m starting.

    Thank you.

  90. Hi Chris:

    Excellent post. I was wondering what your opinion was of ALCAR + r-ALA + ubiquinol. I’ve read some pretty convincing research on this stack, but am unsure if it’s necessary for a 25 year old consuming mostly grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, pastured butter & cream, coconut products, pastured eggs, and fermented veggies, with the inclusion of sweet potatos post-workout, and 1 “cheat window” per week – usually Saturday afternoons-evenings where the worst of the worst is indulged in with friends or family.


  91. HI Chris. Wondering about V-A in sweet potatoes. I don’t eat lots of organ meats, but do eat tons of yams and sweet potatoes. Would you consider these ok sources or are they in the beta-carotene form which is different? Great series. Thanks.

  92. Great post…what are your thoughts on Vitamin B (I currently supplement B12, but am moving towards a B-complex to include 1, 2, & 6) –

    In searching for an answer to my chronic headaches – bloodwork indicated that I was low on Vit D (even after supplementing 4-8k daily) – and it was suggested that I supplement with B12 (I was normal range, but low end of normal). I’ve been taking 40k Vit D and 5k mcg of B12 daily for the last two months – and my headaches have greatly improved. I’m getting ready to have more bloodwork – so I can see how the Vit D levels are this time around.

    Also – how would you adjust these recommendations for children? I currently give them a probiotic and vitamin D, in addition to a multi…I’d like to see how their multi stacks up…

    Thanks –

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