The Latest Research On Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements have long been touted as important to bone health. The problem is that several studies have found that they dont live up to the hype. Vitamin D supplementation doesnt prevent fractures or falls, or have any effect on bone mineral density that is clinically meaningful, according to large review of over 81 clinical trials published in October 2018 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 30265-1″ rel=”nofollow”> 4)
Nor was vitamin D supplementation found to reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death in a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving over 25,000 participants that was published in January 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Yet researchers found that those who developed cancer had a 25 percent lower death rate when they were taking vitamin D. The findings also included a possible reduction in cancer risk for African Americans, which researchers wrote warrants further study.
Meanwhile, though observational studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a randomized, controlled clinical trial published in June 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine did not support that conclusion. Vitamin D3 supplementation at a dose of 4,000 IU per day did not result in a significantly lower risk of diabetes compared with a placebo.
Still, before you dispose of your supplements, speak with your doctor.
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need On A Daily Basis
While recommendations change from country to country, the United States and Canada suggest 1520 g/day , while Australia and New Zealand suggest 515 g/day . The European Food Safety Authority suggests 15 g/day , and the United Kingdom suggests 10 g/day . You might be asking, does this apply to vitamin D2, D3, or D4? There does not seem to be a convincing consensus as to which is better. While a meta-analysis comparing D2 to D3 found that D3 from cholesterol performed better than D2 from yeast , they note that of the 10 studies they reviewed, only three were randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Whats worse, they often used different ways to administer vitamin D, different mega doses, and different measurements of vitamin D status, often without explaining their reasoning for the methods they chose. Further, the meta-analysis did not include mushrooms as a means of obtaining vitamin D, but instead used an isolated version of the hormone. The literature on the best vitamin D source seems confusing at best and often ignores mushrooms and vitamin D4 altogether.
According to four different studies, if you were to take white button mushrooms and place them in the midday sun for 1520 minutes, they would form enough vitamin D to provide more than 10g per 100g of fresh mushroom, which would give you the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.
Treatment For Vitamin D Deficiency
Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D — through diet and supplements. Although there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health — and it likely differs depending on age and health conditions — a concentration of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter is generally considered inadequate, requiring treatment.
Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D to 600 international units for everyone ages 1-70, and raised it to 800 IU for adults older than age 70 to optimize bone health. The safe upper limit was also raised to 4,000 IU. Doctors may prescribe more than 4,000 IU to correct a vitamin D deficiency.
If you don’t spend much time in the sun or always are careful to cover your skin , you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.
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Who Should Take Vitamin D Supplements
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D.
The Department of Health recommends that these people should take daily vitamin D supplements to make sure they get enough.
These groups are:
- all babies from birth to 1 year old
- all children aged 1 to 4 years old
- people who aren’t often exposed to the sun
For the rest of the population, everyone over the age of 5 years is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
But the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer , so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
You can get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a child under 4 years of age and qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.
You can also buy single vitamin supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D for babies and young children at most pharmacies and larger supermarkets.
Speak to your pharmacist, GP or health visitor if you’re unsure whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement or don’t know what supplements to take.
Get Sun To Boost Vitamin D
When the UVB rays in sunlight hit your skin, a chemical process is triggered that ultimately results in the production of vitamin D. The amount of sun needed to produce enough vitamin D can vary, but research suggests that to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels:
- Aim to spend at least 5 to 30 minutes in the sun on a daily basis or at least twice per week between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Expose the skin of your face, arms, legs and hands in the sun, without sunscreen, for this minimal time period range.
The exposure to sunlight needs to be direct for this process to workwindows, clouds, smog, clothes and sunscreen can block or limit your skin’s ability to take in UVB rays.
After the sun’s rays hit your skin and initiate the production of a precursor of vitamin D, it takes an estimated 8 hours for this precursor to be converted into vitamin D3, which then binds to a protein that brings it to your liver. Then, there are a few other steps before this vitamin D can be turned into the vitamin’s active form in your blood, called hydroxyvitamin D. When you get your vitamin D levels tested, it is hydroxyvitamin D that is measured.
Vitamin D3 from the suns rays has been shown to last longer in your body than the vitamin D3 from food or supplements.
However, while exposing yourself to sunlight may be one of the easiest and fastest ways to increase vitamin D levels, some downsides and other factors make it challenging or risky to get sufficient sunlight:
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Why You Need Vitamin D3
A deficiency of vitamin D can have serious consequences in the body. Vitamin D is vital for these reasons:
1. Bone Health
Doctors discovered vitamin D when they were studying rickets, a children’s bone disorder. Today rickets is rare, but vitamin D is still needed for bone health. It’s especially important for women past menopause, who are at risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also used to treat a more serious bone condition called osteomalacia . Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium. Without vitamin D, the body uses only a small percentage of the calcium in food.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Higher levels of vitamin D in the blood are associated with lower levels of some cancers, including colorectal,prostate, and pancreatic. In animal studies, vitamin D was associated with fewer tumors and slower growth of tumors. Clinical trials in humans suggest that vitamin D may not prevent cancer but may slow its progress.
3. Brain Health
Low levels of vitamin D may be a risk factor for various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Animal studies and cell studies have shown a connection, but the results of clinical trials have been mixed. Further research is needed.
Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:
You don’t consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time. This is likely if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver. Here are the best vitamin d foods for vegetarians.
Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure. Duirng the winter, vitamin D deficiency can be more prevalent because there is less sunlight available.
You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
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When You Need To Take It Up A Notch
If you have a baby on board, getting your vitamin D is even more essential. So eat up! Pregnant and breastfeeding people need much more vitamin D than the current 600 IU per day recommendation in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.
You may also need more vitamin D per day if you have a high amount of body fat, if you have a medical condition that impacts fat absorption, if you have a darker skin tone, if you dont spend much time outside, or if youre an older adult.
The less sunlight you get, the higher your daily needs for vitamin D will be. And youll need more vitamin D if youre pregnant and especially if youre breastfeeding. Be sure to chow down on the right vitamin D-rich foods there arent many, so make a note of these next time youre at the grocery store!
Are Supplements A Good Idea
With minimal sunshine, and not too many foods with vitamin D, supplements can be a smart option, Quershi says.
The dietitian recommends vitamin D drops for young children, because theyre easy to consume, and says pills are a common form of supplements for adults.
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You want to make sure it says vitamin D3, Qureshi explains. That is the one thats more bioavailable for your body. Most vitamin supplements will be D3.
Individuals who are already taking multivitamins should check the contents most will include the nutrient.
If you have vitamin D in that supplement, then youre covered, Qureshi said.
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Vitamin D: Whole Foods Vs Fortified Foods
Fortified foods are meant to help boost vitamin and mineralintake. Theyre designed to add nutrients that dont naturally occur in theproduct. Sometimes iron, fiber, zinc or vitamin A is added. For instance, most milkis fortified with vitamin D and calcium is sometimes added to orange juice.
Since so few foods found in nature are good sources ofvitamin D, fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D found in the Americandiet, explains Taylor.
But she warns that some fortified foods can contain addedingredients that make the product less healthy, like sugar or hydrogenatedfats. Cows milk and most plant alternative milks are typically fortified withvitamin D, but its important to look for products with no added sugar.
Many types of yogurt and cereal are also fortified withvitamin D, but could contain excessive added sugar or saturated fat. Margarineis often fortified as well, but some products contain partially hydrogenatedoils, which should be avoided. Read labels to choose the best product for yourfamily.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by specific medical conditions, such as:
- Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease: These diseases do not allow the intestines to absorb enough vitamin D through supplements.
- Weight loss surgeries. Weight loss surgeries that reduce the size of the stomach and/or bypasses part of the small intestines make it very difficult to consume sufficient quantities of certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These individuals need to be carefully monitored by their doctors and need to continue to take vitamin D and other supplements throughout their lives.
- Obesity: A body mass index greater than 30 is associated with lower vitamin D levels. Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it is not released. Vitamin D deficiency is more likely in obese people. Obesity often makes it necessary to take larger doses of vitamin D supplements in order to reach and maintain normal D levels.
- Kidney and liver diseases: These diseases reduce the amount of an enzyme needed to change vitamin D to a form that is used in the body. Lack of this enzyme leads to an inadequate level of active vitamin D in the body.
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How Much Is Too Much Vitamin D
Overdosing on vitamin D is hard to doin 2010, the IOM defined the safe upper limit for vitamin D consumption as 4,000 IU per day.
If you are very deficient in vitamin D, your doctor may suggest a supplement with more than 4,000 IU per day for a short period of time to boost your level quickly. This should be monitored closely with follow-up blood tests to ensure the level of vitamin D circulating in your blood doesnt reach toxic levels, says Marchand.
Signs of vitamin D toxicity, which is rare, include nausea, vomiting, a metallic taste in your mouth, headaches and body aches. It can also lead to pancreatitis and calcification in the kidneys and blood vessels.
What Is Vitamin D And Why Do You Need It
Vitamin D is one of the 13 essential vitamins. However, vitamin D is unique in that your body is able to produce it from sun exposure. You have to consume all of the other vitamins through food or supplements your body cannot produce them on its own. Another unique trait of vitamin D is that before your body can use it, it must be converted into a hormone called calcitriol or activated vitamin D.
Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, along with vitamins A, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed better when consumed with high-fat foods, and they are stored in the liver and fatty tissue throughout the body.
While it has several functions, the most important role of vitamin D is to help your body absorb calcium from food passing through your small intestine and then regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your bloodstream. The mineral calcium is crucial for strong, healthy bones, so without sufficient vitamin D, your bones will grow soft and weak. Vitamin D also helps your body maintain a strong immune system, and it plays a part in regulating cell growth and communication between cells.
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How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Every Day
Your vitamin D needs depend on factors like your age and whether youre pregnant or breastfeeding. According to the National Institutes of Health , adults ages 18 to 70 should get 600 IU of vitamin D per day and adults over 70 should shoot for 800 IU per day.
However, many scientists suggest that the daily requirements for vitamin D are too low for some people to maintain optimal vitamin D status, which most experts agree lies between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter .
Vitamin D2 Vs Vitamin D: Whats The Difference
When looking at nutrition facts or vitamin D supplement options, you may notice vitamin D listed in two forms: D2 and D3.
- Vitamin D2 is found in plant-based sources like mushrooms and yeast.
- Vitamin D3 is found in animal-based sources like salmon, eggs and milk.
Research suggests D2 and D3 are equally effective in boosting vitamin D levels. Both are well-absorbed in the intestines, says Tan, who recommends and opting for whatever is most easily available.
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Vitamin D Is Associated With Levels Of Both Serotonin Important For Mood Regulation And Melatonin Which Regulates Our Sleep
Evidence suggests there may be a relationship since vitamin D is associated with levels of both serotonin, important for mood regulation, and melatonin, which regulates our sleep. Low levels of either hormone could contribute to SAD symptoms. Researchers have yet to carry out a definitive randomised control trial, however, and the exact mechanism by which vitamin D bolsters the hormones is unknown. One theory is that vitamin D receptors which are found in many parts of the brain and concentrated in the hypothalamus, a region involved in our circadian timing play a part in controlling the bodys hormone levels.
Research has found that vitamin D plays a wider role in our mental health, from depression to schizophrenia, as well as in brain development, but how it plays a role also remains unclear. A meta-analysis published earlier this year found that while there is a correlation between lower vitamin D levels and depression, that didnt necessarily mean D caused depression.
Again, perhaps depressed people just went out less and got less sunlight.
If studies are inconclusive, though, perhaps that doesnt reflect on the importance of vitamin D. Perhaps its the fact that most of them are based on supplements, not sunshine.
Some experts believe that vitamin D is most effective when its from the sun, not supplements