The Bottom Line: Vitamin D Is A Crucial Nutrient For Maintaining Your Health
While diet and sunlight can usually provide enough vitamin D, some people may need to take a supplement. Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are both great optionsparticularly since science hasnt proven if one is better than the other. But of course, always talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your health regimen.
Go here to join Prevention Premium , subscribe to the magazine, or get digital-only access.
Vitamin D Can Help You Lose Weight
Dr. Boyd points out that obesity is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levelswhich means more vitamin D may help with weight loss. One 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, in overweight or obese women with low calcium levels, those who took a daily dose of calcium paired with vitamin D were more successful shedding pounds than those who took a placebo supplement, due to an appetite-suppressing effect of the combination.
Vitamin D: What Are The Health Benefits And Signs Of Deficiency
For individuals looking to take control of their health, using vitamins and supplements can be an easy way to boost well-being.
In recent years, vitamin D has started gaining more attention for its health benefits but despite its name, it’s actually a prohormone.
While in general vitamins are nutrients that the body cannot synthesize itself, vitamin D is an exception which our bodies produce in response to sun exposure.
Recommended Reading: What Vitamins Should A 60 Year Old Woman Take
Benefits Of Vitamin D
Doctors always recommended that newborn babies should be exposed to sunlight as it will make their bones strong and increase their density. Also, it is recommended that old age people should expose themselves more and more to the sunlight in order to keep the bones strong. Have you ever wondered why its so? You are just going to find it.
Best Vitamin D Supplement Benefits & How To Choose The Right One
Vitamin D stands out from other micronutrients because its one of the few vitamins that your body is able to produce all on its own. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, your skin is actually able to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, many of us are lacking in this key nutrient, resulting in vitamin D deficiency, and because its found in very few food sources, its often necessary to take a vitamin D supplement to help meet your daily needs.
So do vitamin D supplements work? Do you actually need one? And what is the best vitamin D supplement? Heres what you need to know.
Don’t Miss: What Is Alive Women’s Energy Vitamins
Why You Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital to several different aspects of health. Although its most well-known for its ability to strengthen the bones and boost calcium absorption, its also involved in immune function, disease prevention, mood regulation and weight control. In fact, a deficiency in this crucial vitamin can cause issues like hair loss, chronic pain, sluggishness and decreased wound healing.
Unfortunately, vitamin D is found in very few food sources naturally, which can make it difficult to meet your needs through diet alone. Not only that, but many are also at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including older adults, overweight individuals and those living in northern latitudes.
Taking a vitamin D supplement is an easy and effective way to ensure youre able to meet your needs with minimal risk of adverse side effects. Plus, in addition to effectively preventing a deficiency, vitamin D supplementation has also been linked to a number of different health benefits, including increased weight loss, enhanced immune function, a reduced risk of depression and more.
Signs Of Deficiency And Toxicity
Vitamin D deficiency may occur from a lack in the diet, poor absorption, or having a metabolic need for higher amounts. If one is not eating enough vitamin D and does not receive enough ultraviolet sun exposure over an extended period , a deficiency may arise. People who cannot tolerate or do not eat milk, eggs, and fish, such as those with a lactose intolerance or who follow a vegan diet, are at higher risk for a deficiency. Other people at high risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- People with inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions that disrupt the normal digestion of fat. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that depends on the guts ability to absorb dietary fat.
- People who are obese tend to have lower blood vitamin D levels. Vitamin D accumulates in excess fat tissues but is not easily available for use by the body when needed. Higher doses of vitamin D supplementation may be needed to achieve a desirable blood level. Conversely, blood levels of vitamin D rise when obese people lose weight.
- People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, which typically removes the upper part of the small intestine where vitamin D is absorbed.
Conditions resulting from prolonged vitamin D deficiency:
Symptoms of toxicity:
- Weight loss
- Irregular heart beat
- Hardening of blood vessels and tissues due to increased blood levels of calcium, potentially leading to damage of the heart and kidneys
You May Like: What Does Vitamin D Do To You
Vitamin D Boosts Weight Loss
Consider adding vitamin D supplements to your diet if youre trying to lose weight or prevent heart disease. You can find a great selection of vitamin D supplements on .
In one study, people taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement. The scientists said the extra calcium and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.
In another study, overweight people who took a daily vitamin D supplement improved their heart disease risk markers.
Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include:
- Being in an area with high pollution
- Using sunscreen
- Spending more time indoors
- Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
- Having darker skin.
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. Thats why its important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
- severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or cause you to walk with a waddling gait
- stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips
Doctors can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. If you have a deficiency, your doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of your bones.
Help Protect Against Heart Disease And Stroke
Is vitamin D heart-healthy? A prior review of 19 studies linked adequate vitamin D to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Yet the VITAL study, a large, randomized clinical trial study involving more than 25,000 participants and published in January 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no risk reduction for strokes, heart attacks or cardiovascular deaths in people who took 2,000 IU supplements daily.
Don’t Miss: What Vitamins Build Up The Immune System
It May Help To Promote A Healthy Pregnancy
According to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, it was found that vitamin D3 levels were starkly different in healthy pregnant women compared with those who had preeclampsia and eclampsia. Preeclampsia only occurs during pregnancy, and it causes the mother to have high blood pressure and may be indicative of damage to the liver or kidneys. Eclampsia is characterized by the onset of seizures in pregnant women who have preeclampsia. Healthy women had statistically significant higher vitamin D levels than women who had preeclampsia and eclampsia.
To learn more about this essential vitamin, it might be worth you checking out 5 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency You Should Never Ignore.
It May Stave Off The Development Of Allergic Diseases In Babies
Dr. Avena says that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of allergic conditions and diseases, including asthma and eczema in babies. However, research suggests that whether vitamin D actually prevents asthma and allergies during the prenatal window and early stages of life remains controversial. Vitamin D may also help kids and adults currently living with asthma.
A review of several clinical trials published in the medical science journal Cureus found that vitamin D supplementation may be helpful in the management of asthma, in addition to an inhaler and any other necessary medications.
RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.
Read Also: What Vitamins Prevent Cold Sores
Do You Need To Take A Vitamin D Supplement
The short answer: Probably not. Unless youre at a high risk for vitamin D deficiency, theres probably no need to take a supplement, says Sabitha Rajan, M.D., a board-certified internist who works in research and development for the inpatient and surgical guidelines at MCG Health.
High-risk groups include:
- Breast-feeding infants. Breastmilk and formula often dont have enough vitamin D for newborns.
- People who have celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or any disorder that hinders nutrient absorption from fat.
- People who cant or dont often go outdoors to get sun exposure.
- People who have darker skin. Its harder for their bodies to synthesize vitamin D from UVB rays.
- People who are malnourished or who dont eat enough vitamin D rich foods.
- People who follow a vegan or plant-based dietand dont consume enough vitamin D fortified foods or supplements.
- Elderly adults. As you age, your ability to make vitamin D from the sun decreases.
When in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask your doctor if you would benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.
How Thinking About Vitamin D Has Changed
For the first 20 years I was a doctor, I hardly ever checked anyone’s vitamin D levels. We knew people with very low levels were at higher risk of ‘thinning’ of the bones . So we did used to prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements for people at high risk of breaking a bone.
Occasionally we’d check someone’s blood levels of vitamin D and discover they were very low – so we’d give them a single injection of very high-dose vitamin D. But that was about it.
In the last decade, there has been a complete revolution among doctors in our attitudes to vitamin D. Once we started measuring it, I certainly discovered at least half my patients were short of vitamin D and one in six patients were severely deficient. So we started recommending supplements routinely for anyone at risk of osteoporosis as well as other conditions .
But on 5th October 2018 a new study on vitamin D and osteoporosis was published which is likely to change our thinking again.
Don’t Miss: What Is Vitamin E Oil
Whats The Difference Between Vitamin D2 And Vitamin D3
There are two forms of vitamin D, according to the NIH.
Vitamin D3 is the type your skin produces when you get sunlight. Its also found in animal products like the oily fish mentioned above.
Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources like mushrooms and yeast. They, too, produce their own vitamin D when they are exposed to UVB rays. This is the type youll find in most fortified foods.
Some doctors suggest that D3 is the better choice when it comes to supplementation. This is partially because research has shown that D3 increases the vitamin D in your blood more efficiently than D2. According to Dr. Rajan, D3 may be a more stable vitamin, particularly when it exists in fortified foods.In other words, cereal fortified with D2 may degrade faster than cereal enhanced with D3.
Overall, the studies comparing D2 and D3s efficacy and shelf stability are mixed so we cant say with 100% certainty which one would be better, says Dr. Rajan. If you find a supplement that you like that can help you meet the daily recommendation, that would be fine. There is no hard and fast rule.
Should You Take Vitamin D
I plan to keep advising my patients to get the amount of vitamin D recommended by the Institute of Medicine:
- 600 IU of vitamin D a day for everyone ages 1 to 70
- 800 IU of vitamin D a day for those 71 and older
Food is usually the best way to get vitamins. But not vitamin D. Only a few foodssalmon, tuna, sardines, milk, fortified cereals, and some types of mushroomcan give you more than 100 IU per serving.
What about the way humans have gotten vitamin D for millions of yearsfrom the sun? Its a hot-button issueand a balancing act. Getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, arms, back, or legs without sunscreen a few times a week is enough to generate your bodys vitamin D needs for a week. But too much exposure to the sun causes skin cancer.
If you rarely get out in the sun, or just arent certain you are getting 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D a day, taking a supplement containing 400 to 1,000 IU is safe, inexpensive insurance.
You May Like: Where Can I Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D Reduces Depression
Getting plenty of vitamin D helps with regulating your mood and eases the effects of depression. Studies show that when people with depression took vitamin D supplements, they noticed an improvement in their symptoms. While researchers are still delving into the relationship between vitamin D for anxiety and depression, there is a clear link.
Vitamin D acts as a hormone in your body, making it directly affect brain function. Spending more time in the sun, eating foods rich in vitamin D, and taking supplements can all make a positive difference. It also boosts your insulin sensitivity and energy levels, further improving your mood.
Advice For Adults And Children Over 4 Years Old
During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet.
You may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
Recommended Reading: How To Eat Vitamin D
Best Vitamin D Supplement Options
With all the vitamin D supplements on the market, it can feel overwhelming trying to select a supplement thats right for you. So what is the best vitamin D supplement?
Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two most common forms of vitamin D, found in both food sources and supplements. Besides the fact that vitamin D3 is found primarily in animal-derived foods and vitamin D2 is found in fortified foods and mushrooms, these two types of vitamin D are also metabolized differently in the body. In fact, one study found that taking vitamin D3 was nearly twice as effective at increasing serum vitamin D levels than vitamin D2.
Ideally, look for a vitamin D supplement that contains vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. Additionally, check the ingredients label and select a product with minimal added ingredients or fillers to ensure you get the best value for your money. Keep in mind that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if your supplement doesnt contain an oil, you should take your vitamin D with a meal that contains a good source of fat to optimize absorption. A few slices of avocado, a handful of nuts or a square of dark chocolate can all help boost nutrient absorption.
Do You Get Vitamin D From Being In The Sun
Our bodies make vitamin D, which is actually more like a hormone than a vitamin when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
This is why people who spend a lot of time indoors or live at higher latitudes are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. It is also harder for your skin to make vitamin D while wearing sunscreen.
Prevalence of skin cancer has encouraged the recommendation to limit direct sun exposure, but this recommendation may have inadvertently caused vitamin D deficiency to become more prevalent. The key is being balanced.
Short-term sun exposure to make vitamin D is important. Between five and 30 minutes of sunlight directly on the skin between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the face, arms, legs, or back twice weekly is recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
Don’t Miss: What Are The Best Vitamins To Take Everyday
Common Side Effects Of Vitamin D Vs D3
There are no common side effects to therapy with either vitamin D2 or D3. Side effects related to vitamin D are the result of hypervitaminosis D, an extremely rare condition that occurs when you intake too much vitamin D. This is sometimes seen in patients who take megadoses of vitamin D, leading to vitamin D toxicity. The result is a build up of dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood which can lead to nausea, vomiting, constipation, and frequent urination. If left untreated, irreversible renal failure can occur along with calcification of organs and soft tissues.
The following table lists side effects related to hypervitaminosis D, not normal vitamin D supplementation. More information on vitamin D toxicity may be obtained from your doctor or pharmacist, as this may not be a complete list.