By Dr. Jatin Joshi, Founder of OneSecond Supplements
Vitamin D, ‘the sunshine vitamin’, has certainly gained a lot of attention in the media recently, being talked about as one of the most important vitamins to consider taking as a supplement… but why is this?
In our household, we all take regular vitamin D supplementation. This is because it is one of those vitamins that is so very difficult to get through diet alone. The scientific support highlighting just how important vitamin D is to our health is increasing day by day.
So, based on all of these factors, I thought I would quickly summarise the What, Where and How of vitamin D, and tell you Why it’s one of the most important vitamins to consider taking supplements for.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamins are essential for the way our body works but our body cannot naturally produce them without the aid of an outside source.
Where does my body get the vitamin D it needs?
Vitamin D is often referred to as ‘the sunshine vitamin’. This is because the best way for your body to produce vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight, as vitamin D synthesis is triggered when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin.
If like us, you live in the northern hemisphere, the sunlight in this region between the months of October to early March does not contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to make vitamin D. In fact, even if you live in sunny California, your skin can be prevented from producing the vitamin D your body needs by wearing sunblock, or by having a job that keeps you indoors for the most part of the day.
Vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish, red meat and eggs, but because quantities in these sources tend to be quite low, it is difficult to obtain the vitamin D you need from dietary sources alone.
Other sources of vitamin D include fortified foods (although again levels of vitamin D can be variable) and supplements.
How is it made?
It’s important to know that the vitamin D produced in the skin or derived from foods is not yet biologically active. In order for our body to be able to use the vitamin D, it needs to be changed through chemical processes referred to as ‘hydroxylations’. Two hydroxylations are required: the first is in the liver, creating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D (Calcidiol), and the second is in the kidney, forming 1,25-Hydroxyvitamin D (Calcitriol), the biologically active form.
Why is vitamin D so important to our health status?
Now we know how it is made, let’s talk about why is it so important. The scientific community has known about vitamin D for quite some time now. Initially, we thought the main role of vitamin D was to promote calcium absorption, enabling normal bone mineralization, and supporting bone growth and bone remodeling. In more user-friendly terms, we thought that vitamin D was just important for healthy teeth and bones. However, more and more research is now helping to show us that vitamin D is actually important for a whole range of processes that happen within our body.
Vitamin D has roles in the maintenance of healthy immune function, neuromuscular function, and has an influence on cell growth and inflammation.
Do we need to take vitamin D supplements to remain healthy?
A huge amount of research has been conducted on the benefits of vitamin D and on whether vitamin D supplementation confers any health benefits. Numerous results from robust studies have shown that having the right levels of vitamin D in our body produces positive benefits to our health.
Here’s a summary of some research findings.
- Benefits to cardiovascular health with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and related cardiovascular complications. There is also a correlation between higher levels of vitamin D and lower blood pressure which also helps to prevent adverse cardiovascular events.
- Stronger bones and reduced risk of fractures. Vitamin D’s affects on calcium homeostasis and parathyroid hormone lead to increased bone mineral density. Correct levels of vitamin D have also been shown to decrease the risks of falls, as it helps to improve neuromuscular function and coordination. Both of these factors help to reduce the risk of bone fractures.
- Reduced risk of Colorectal cancer – A notable risk reduction (nearly 50% reduction) between those that are vitamin D deficient and those at optimum levels.
- Fat loss in overweight/obese individuals – Evidence shows that supplementation of vitamin D in overweight individuals aids fat loss.
- Reduction in all causes of mortality – People with higher blood levels of vitamin D appears to die less frequently than groups of people with low levels. This may be due to a reduction in falls among the elderly.
- Reduction in the occurrence of asthma attacks in youth – This recent study showed a reduction in asthma attacks in children between 1 and 17 when they were supplemented with 1200IU of vitamin D per day.
- Reduction in the risk of catching flu – This trial showed a reduced risk of catching seasonal influenza in those taking vitamin D supplements.
- Beneficial effects on Diabetes. Improved Insulin secretion and sensitivity in diabetics and those at risk of diabetes – An increase in insulin secretion and sensitivity is seen with vitamin D supplementation, mostly due to the protective effects on the pancreas.
Other benefits of vitamin D supplementation have also been noted. I have not included these as I believe the quality of evidence is not yet at a satisfactory level. However, they represent areas of interesting research and development.
- Improvements in the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus, symptoms of tuberculosis
- Increase in testosterone levels
- Decrease in triglycerides
- Reduction in the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis and lower relapse rate
- Reduction in symptoms of arthralgia decreased the risk of type 1 diabetes
- Reduced risk of pancreatic cancer
OMG! Shouldn’t we all be taking vitamin D supplements?
The short answer is yes! At OneSecond Supplements we always say if you are able to get your nutrients through your diet, then you should. Supplements offer us that extra bit of help that we all sometimes need.
However, vitamin D is different. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet, and most of us are not able to get enough sun exposure to achieve the required levels. Even in areas such as Florida and Arizona, a large proportion of people are deficient in vitamin D. Our deficiency may be due to skin color (racial pigmentation means that people with darker skin tones, e.g. Hispanics and African Americans, have lower vitamin D levels), our use of sunscreen (which prevents nearly 99% of vitamin D synthesis) or the timing of our exposure to the sun (UVB intensity is low in the morning and evening and during winter months). In addition to this, we are always being advised to reduce our exposure to the sun and to use sunscreen because of the risks of developing skin cancer. So, how are we going to make enough vitamin D?
Many people ask me, “If there is one supplement I should take, what should it be?” The answer is always difficult – we are all different people. If I am pressed to give an answer, I would always say vitamin D. In my opinion; it is the single most important supplement that a person can take.
How much should I take?
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D has been increased from 400iu to 600iu, but in my view, even that amount is too low. Numerous studies have shown that an adult should be taking at least 1000iu per day in order to get a good level of vitamin D in their blood (a level where all benefits become apparent). In the OneSecond Supplements Daily Vitamin D3 supplement, I have decided to set the level at 1250iu of vitamin D per dose. This is a level that will help all of us to achieve the optimum blood levels of vitamin D and to enjoy all the health benefits associated with that.
Can you overdose on vitamins?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and therefore excess amounts can be stored safely within the body. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults can tolerate more than 10,000IU per day without ill effect. However, it is advisable to stay within the recommended dose and, if in doubt, please consult your physician.