Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because we get it from the sun. When the sun’s ultraviolet B rays hit your skin, the vitamin D-receptors in the skin make vitamin D. It is the only vitamin your body can make and it plays a vital role in many physiological processes in the body.
Although we have the natural ability to make our own vitamin D, most of us are low in this vitamin. This could be because of many reasons such as living in regions that don’t get sun all through the year. In addition, prolonged sun exposure could increase the risk of skin cancer, a primary reason why many fall short of vitamin D. This is why vitamin D deficiency is considered a global public health problem . In fact, nearly 41.6% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D . Often, the need for this nutrient as a supplement is undervalued since most assume they are getting enough from the sun.
How does vitamin D benefit you?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is crucial for optimal immune function, promotes calcium absorption and preserves bone health. It is impressive to note that how much we rely on this vitamin for optimal health. Here are the top benefits of vitamin D.
Bone health: Vitamin D along with calcium plays an important role in bone and teeth formation. Hence, it is a vitamin that is crucial at every stage of life right from conception to older years. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets in children and growth retardation. Among adults it causes osteopenia, osteoporosis, bone loss, and increased risk of fracture. Inadequate vitamin D also leads to muscle weakness and fatigue which is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Boosts the immune system: Several studies have shown that having low vitamin D levels increases the risk of infection. People with less than 30 ng/ml of vitamin D were more likely to report upper respiratory infections than those with adequate vitamin D levels. Since vitamin D can modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses of the body, having optimal levels of this vitamin proves beneficial. Besides, there is also increasing evidence linking vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Regulate mood and sleep: Recent studies reveal that vitamin D has a crucial role in regulating serotonin and melatonin levels responsible for mood and sleep. This indicates the relevance of vitamin D in preventing cognitive, behavioral, and mood disorders. The presence of 1-alpha-hydroxylase, the enzyme responsible for forming the active vitamin D in the human brain (prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and hypothalamus) is strong evidence for vitamin D’s role in mood and sleep processes.
Lower risk of cancers: A promising benefit of optional vitamin D levels is its association with lower risk of cancers. A 2008 paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that several retrospective and prospective studies that evaluated circulating concentrations of 25(OH) D support the concept that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing and dying from cancer. A meta-analysis found that increasing vitamin intake to 1000 IU vitamin D3 may help decrease the risk of colorectal and breast cancers of as much as 50% . Another study revealed that postmenopausal women who received 1100 IU vitamin D3 and 1000 mg calcium daily for four years lowered their risk of developing cancer by 60%.
Promotes heart health: Vitamin D helps regulate blood pressure by acting on endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells. Endothelial cells form the inner lining of the blood vessels, lymph vessels, and the heart. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various cardiovascular risk factors and an increased death rate. Researchers have proposed several mechanisms relating vitamin D deficiency to heart health risk factors. These include abnormal nitric oxide regulation, oxidative stress, or altered inflammatory pathways . Although there is no direct evidence established, ensuring optimal vitamin D levels may prove beneficial for overall heart function.
Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
- Young children and teens have an increased demand due to the growth spurt.
- Older adults with darker skin may not make enough vitamin D.
- People with limited sun exposure or live in areas where sunlight is scanty.
- Pregnant and lactating mother who have an increased demand for vitamin D.
- Crohn’s or Celiac disease may reduce the ability of the intestines to absorb vitamin D from food sources.
- Older adults with kidney disease may not efficiently convert vitamin D to its active form.
What are the signs of vitamin D deficiency?
Low vitamin D levels manifests as incorrect growth patterns, bone and joint deformities, weak and painful muscles in children. Severe deficiency leads to rickets in children.
In adults, vitamin D deficiencies are not very pronounced and are often confused with other health conditions.
However, here are some common signs that you may have vitamin D deficiency.
- Bone pain
- Muscle aches
- Pain in jaws
- Mood changes like depression
Since the symptoms are not obvious, a sure way to know if you are low on this vitamin is to talk to your provider about getting blood work done. Your provider will order 25-hydroxy vitamin D test which is the accurate way of measuring the levels of vitamin D in your body.
Choosing a supplement
Besides sunlight, Vitamin D is also available from food. Vitamin D from sun exposure and foods are biologically inert and must undergo conversion in the body to become the active form. The first hydroxylation occurs in the liver, which converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), also known as “calcidiol.” The second conversion happens in the kidney and forms the active form 1,25 dihyrdoxy vitamin D also called calcitriol .
Given the critical role vitamin D plays in your body, it is essential to supplement this vitamin daily.
Here are our picks for high-quality best vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D3 5000 iu by Pure Encapsulations: Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 is a single pill that offers your daily dose of vitamin D. This vitamin D supplement is non-GMO, vegetarian and gluten-free. Vitamin D is in the form of cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), which is the active form of vitamin D that is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. The supplement is available in 60, 120, and 250 count vegetarian capsules. It is also available in liquid form and in 1000 IU strength. The suggested dosage is to take one capsule a day with a meal or as directed by your provider.
Vitamin D Supreme by Designs for Health: The supplement offers clinically useful dose of vitamin D3 along with vitamin K as K1 and the MK07 form of K2. Taking a supplement that provides vitamin D and K is helpful to ensure calcium absorption and optimal bone health. Vitamin D promotes the production of vitamin K- dependent proteins. These proteins require vitamin K for carboxylation in order to function properly. Studies indicate that vitamins D and K work synergistically on bone and heart health. The formula contains higher targeted doses than vitamin D for those needing aggressive repletion of vitamin D. The suggested dosage is to take one capsule per day with a meal, or as directed by the physician. Vitamin D 125 mcg (5000 IU) and vitamin K 550 mcg (as vitamin K1 Phytonadione 500 mcg; vitamin K2 Menaquinone-7 50 mcg). Those taking Coumadin, warfarin, or other anticoagulant medications must consult with their healthcare provider before using this product.
Liquid Vitamin-D3 by Douglas Laboratories: Douglas Labs Liquid Vitamin D-3 is the answer for those having trouble swallowing pills. The formulation is a unique, neutral-tasting, sugar-free liquid supplying 1000 IU of natural vitamin D3. One drop of the liquid offers 1000 IU (25 mcg) and the suggested dosage is to take 1 – 10 drops per day or as directed by your provider. The vitamin D is suspended in medium chain triglycerides ensuring better absorption and bioavailability. Adequate vitamin D is essential for ensuring normal calcium absorption and maintenance of healthy plasma calcium levels.
Vitamin D3 Kids Gummies by Nordic Naturals: Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 is a tasty way to include vitamin D3 for children. Vitamin D supports the growth of strong bones, a robust immune system, and strong muscles and nervous system health. The supplement is gluten-free, gelatin-free, dairy-free and suitable for kids aged four and above. One gummy provides 400 IU of vitamin D3, the active form of the vitamin. The recommendation for children is to take one gummy per day or as directed by your child’s physician. It is important to ensure children chew each gummy thoroughly. The supplement is free of artificial coloring, flavoring, sweeteners and preservatives. The gummies are available in a delicious watermelon splash flavor and are offered in packages of 60 or 120 gummies in a bottle.References