Don’t Let Your Vitamin D Absorption Slip Away
Figuring out all the factors that can affect a person’s vitamin D levels is complicated. You can get the vitamin from food and by taking supplements .
But vitamin D is also produced by the body in a complex process that starts when rays in the invisible ultraviolet B part of the light spectrum are absorbed by the skin. The liver, and then the kidneys, are involved in the steps that eventually result in a bioavailable form of the vitamin that the body can use.
Here are nine factors that can influence a person’s vitamin D level:
1. The latitude where you live. At higher latitudes, the amount of vitamin Dproducing UVB light reaching the earth’s surface goes down in the winter because of the low angle of the sun. In Boston, for example, little if any of the vitamin is produced in people’s skin tissue from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.
2. The air pollution where you live. Carbon particulates in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays. Ozone absorbs UVB radiation, so holes in the ozone layer could be a pollution problem that winds up enhancing vitamin D levels.
5. The temperature of your skin. Warm skin is a more efficient producer of vitamin D than cool skin. So, on a sunny, hot summer day, you’ll make more vitamin D than on a cool one.
Vitamin D: Functions Health Benefits And Research
Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Michael Joseph
Vitamin D is a hormone that is essential for human health.
This critical nutrient has many vital roles within the body, and we can obtain it from either sunlight, food, or supplements.
In this article, we examine the various functions and benefits of vitamin D, how much we require, and the best ways to get it.
What Other Factors Can Lead To Vitamin D Deficiency
- Age: The skin’s ability to make vitamin D lessens with age.
- Mobility: People who are homebound or are rarely outside are not able to use sun exposure as a source of vitamin D.
- Skin color: Dark-colored skin is less able to make vitamin D than fair-colored skin.
- Human breast milk: A woman’s breast milk only contains a small amount of vitamin D. Often infant formulas also only include a small amount of D also. Therefore infants are at risk of not receiving enough vitamin D. This is especially true for infants who are only fed breast milk.
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Clinical Benefits Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D decreases cell proliferation and increases cell differentiation, stops the growth of new blood vessels, and has significant anti-inflammatory effects. Many studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of cancer, with the strongest evidence for colorectal cancer. In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study , subjects with high vitamin D concentrations were half as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer as those with low concentrations. A definitive conclusion cannot yet be made about the association between vitamin D concentration and cancer risk, but results from many studies are promising. There is some evidence linking higher vitamin D intake to a lower risk for breast cancer. The effect of menopausal status on this association is still unclear.
Several studies are providing evidence that the protective effect of vitamin D on the heart could be via the reninangiotensin hormone system, through the suppression of inflammation, or directly on the cells of the heart and blood-vessel walls. In the Framingham Heart Study, patients with low vitamin D concentrations had a 60% higher risk of heart disease than those with higher concentrations. In another study, which followed men and women for 4 years, patients with low vitamin D concentrations were three times more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those with high concentrations .
Type 2 diabetes
Vegetables And Fruits Rich In Vitamin D
You must not know that an excess amount of Vitamin D is a risk factor as it increases the amount of calcium in your body, which may cause cardiovascular diseases or kidney stones.
If thats the case, you may want to just stick to a limited number of sources to ensure the intake of Vitamin D is regulated.
So, what are the recommended vegetables and fruits to gain Vitamin D in the amount required by your body?
People At Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people will not make enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that adults and children over 4 take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they:
- are not often outdoors for example, if they’re frail or housebound
- are in an institution like a care home
- usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
If you have dark skin for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background you may also not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.
You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
Vitamin D Deficiency: Prevalence
VDD has been historically defined and recently recommended by the Institute of Medicine as a 25D of less than 0.8 IU. Vitamin D insufficiency has been defined as a 25D of 2129 ng/mL. Children and young- and middle-aged adults are at equally high risk for VDD and insufficiency worldwide. VDD is common in Australia, the Middle East, India, Africa, and South America. Pregnant and lactating women who take a prenatal vitamin and a calcium supplement with vitamin D remain at high risk for VDD.
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How Much Vitamin D Do I Need
From about late March/early April to the end of September, the majority of people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin.
Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Babies up to the age of 1 year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.
A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram . The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol followed by the letter g .
Sometimes the amount of vitamin D is expressed as International Units . 1 microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU. So 10 micrograms of vitamin D is equal to 400 IU.
What Is Vitamin D3
Looking to get more of the sunshine vitamin benefits? Not getting enough sun? Not eating enough vitamin D-rich foods? Think you can stand to get a little bit more to support your health?
Very good! Vitamin D is essential to your overall health and making sure you get enough is paramount to your well-being. Before you get started, it is important to know that there are different types of vitamin D: vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3, also known by its other alias cholecalciferol, is vitamin D in its natural formthe kind produced in your body as it absorbs sunlight. However, recent studies are beginning to find that vitamin D2 may be as effective as vitamin D3.
Whichever form of vitamin D you choose to take, make sure you get enough so you can enjoy healthy teeth and bones while protecting yourself from disease.
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Why Do I Need Vitamin D
Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children and fragile, misshapen bones in adults . You also need vitamin D for other important body functions.
Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease, although they do not definitively prove that lack of vitamin D causes disease — or that vitamin D supplements would lower risk.
The Vitamin D Council — a scientist-led group promoting vitamin D deficiency awareness — suggests vitamin D treatment might be found helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high bloodpressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis. However, there have been no definitive clinical trials.
That’s why the Institute of Medicine expert committee’s November 2010 review found no conclusive evidence that vitamin D, by itself, offers wide-ranging health benefits.
“Despite the many claims of benefit surrounding vitamin D in particular, the evidence did not support a basis for a causal relationship between vitamin D and many of the numerous health outcomes purported to be affected by vitamin D intake,” the IOM committee concluded.
Ways To Get Vitamin D
You can get vitamin D in three ways: by eating foods that contain it, by taking supplements or by spending time in the sun. Few foods contain vitamin D fatty fish such as salmon, liver, egg yolk and fortified foods such as milk and orange juice help you meet your daily needs. Unless you overdose on cod liver oil, eating foods containing vitamin D won’t raise your vitamin D levels too high. You also can’t get too much vitamin D by spending time in the sun, since other substances your body produces will prevent overproduction. If you take high supplemental doses of vitamin D over time you can overdose, since vitamin D builds up in your body.
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Help Prevent Cognitive Decline And Dementia
Foroutan points out that there are vitamin D receptors in brain tissue, which suggests that the vitamin may play a role in cognitive function and, potentially, the risk of dementia. Research may support this notion, with one article suggesting that vitamin D may help clear up amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimers disease . The authors note that more research is needed to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between an adequate level of vitamin D and the neurodegenerative disorder.
Meanwhile, a large review published in July 2018 in Nutritional Neuroscience found insufficient evidence that vitamin D supplements protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease. Researchers wrote that they also couldnt confirm that vitamin D synthesized from sun exposure helps to protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
What Happens If I Take Too Much Vitamin D
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body . This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Page last reviewed: 03 August 2020 Next review due: 03 August 2023
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Vitamin D Can Help Strengthen Oral Health
Because vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium, it plays a crucial role in supporting oral health, lowering the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. A 2011 review in The Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association notes that while the research is scant, there’s an “emerging hypothesis” that the vitamin is beneficial for oral health, due to its effect on bone metabolism and “its ability to function as an anti-inflammatory agent and stimulate the production of anti-microbial peptides.”
Is It Best To Get Your Vitamin D From The Sun Definitely Not
David J. Leffell, MD, Yale Medicine dermatologist and chief of Dermatologic Surgery
One of the biggest challenges weve faced in dermatology and in the world of skin cancer prevention has been a lot of misinformation about vitamin D metabolism.
There are claims that one needs to get a certain amount of sun exposure every day in order to produce enough vitamin D to be healthy. Its just not true. The majority of people can get their vitamin D from nutritional supplements and from vitamin D-fortified foods.
There are some people who have advocated for tanning to get vitamin D. But we know that UVB light causes skin cancer and that protecting yourself against it makes sense. As a doctor who treats patients who have melanomas, I want the general public to be advised that under no circumstances can use of a tanning bed or tanning in general be justified on the basis of vitamin D. Take a supplement instead.
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What Is Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency means that you do not have enough vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is unique because your skin actually produces it by using sunlight. Fair-skinned individuals and those who are younger convert sunshine into vitamin D far better than those who are darker-skinned and over age 50.
Being Sick Or Getting Infections Often
One of vitamin Ds most important roles is keeping your immune system strong so youre able to fight viruses and bacteria that cause illness.
It directly interacts with the cells that are responsible for fighting infection .
Several large observational studies have shown a link between a deficiency and respiratory tract infections such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia .
A number of studies have found that taking vitamin D supplements at a dosage of up to 4,000 IU daily may reduce your risk of developing a respiratory tract infection .
Vitamin D plays important roles in immune function. One of the most common symptoms of a deficiency is an increased risk of illness or infections.
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How Do You Ensure You Have Enough Vitamin D
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 international units for most people ages 1 to 70, according to the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. For people over the age of 70 its 800 IU, and for infants its 400 IU.
But its not easy to get that much vitamin D through diet and sunlight alone. The average amount of the nutrient that an individual gets from food and drink rarely exceeds 288 IU per day. Even drinking milk fortified with vitamin D will get you only 100 IU per 8-ounce glass, and the same goes for most plant-milk substitutes that are fortified with vitamin D.
Thats why many people take vitamin D supplements. The Endocrine Society recommends that adults take 1,5002,000 IU per day in supplements to avoid vitamin D deficiency, and 1,000 IU per day for infants and children. Yet recommendations vary widely. Keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing with vitamin D, which is why the FNB set an upper limit of 4,000 IU per day in supplementation for people over age 9 and 1,0003,000 IU for infants and children up to age 8, depending on age. Dosages beyond those increase the risk for death, cancer, and cardiovascular events, as well as falls and fractures in seniors.
Breaking The Old Rules
Vitamin D is one of the 13 vitamins discovered in the early 20th century by doctors studying nutritional deficiency diseases. Ever since, scientists have defined vitamins as organic chemicals that must be obtained from dietary sources because they are not produced by the body’s tissues. Vitamins play a crucial role in our body’s metabolism, but only tiny amounts are needed to fill that role.
Although vitamin D is firmly enshrined as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it is not technically a vitamin. True, it’s essential for health, and only minuscule amounts are required. But it breaks the other rules for vitamins because it’s produced in the human body, it’s absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, and even when it’s obtained from foods, it must be transformed by the body before it can do any good.
As our habits change, most of us cannot rely on our bodies to produce vitamin D the old-fashioned way. Instead, we increasingly depend on artificially fortified foods and pills to provide this vital nutrient. Coming full circle in the modern world, this substance may actually come to fit the technical definition of a vitamin.
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When To See A Doctor
Most people do not realize that theyre vitamin D deficient, as symptoms are generally subtle. You may not recognize them easily, even if theyre significantly affecting your quality of life.
As a rule of thumb, you may consider asking your doctor to check for vitamin D deficiency if you notice any possible symptoms and have any risk factors. They can check your vitamin D levels with a blood test.
Your doctor may also help rule out other causes behind some of the symptoms youre experiencing.