Public Health England has published advice to recommend that everyone take a Vitamin D supplement.
It is such an important nutrient in our body, with proven benefits like helping to support a healthy immune system, maintain healthy bones and teeth and normal muscle function to name just a few.
Studies are even investigating whether there is evidence that Vitamin D has potential to reduce the risk of coronavirus (Covid 19).
'The Sunshine Vitamin' as it is often known, has been getting a lot of press over the last few years!
For instance, on Sunday 10th January this year, The Guardian published a story 'Does Vitamin D combat Covid?' Our local hospital Newcastle RVI, were featured trialling the use of Vitamin D to boost the immune system in Covid patients. Clinicians, endocrinologists and politicians around the world are currently studying results.
Studies have also been looking at Vitamin D supplementation in high doses, having an impact on insulin resistance, increasing insulin sensitivity and therefore reducing the risk of developing diabetes (in patients with pre-diabetes).
Many of our body’s organs and tissues have Vitamin D receptors suggesting the importance of Vitamin D beyond bone and muscle health.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. It is measured in IU International Units, or micrograms mcg.
The two main compounds in this group are Vitamin D2, Ergocalciferol and Vitamin D3, Cholecalciferol. Both D2 and D3 need to be converted by the liver and then by the kidneys into the main form of Vitamin D that circulates in our body. The active form of Vitamin D is called Calcitrol which is a hormone. So, this is why some people describe Vitamin D as a hormone, rather than vitamin. So, it is often known as both!
Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3
Due to further studies these days scientists are more able to understand the importance of vitamin D2 and D3 and determine which form is more effective. Although we do need both forms, studies have now shown that Vitamin D3 appears to more effectively raise our levels of active Vitamin D in our body, in comparison to Vitamin D2. For this reason, there are not many D2 supplements on the market.
How can we increase our levels of Vitamin D?
Our main natural source of Vitamin D3 is made in the skin following UVB light exposure, obtained through synthesis of Cholecalciferol.
Therefore, we could get outdoors more and get more sunshine on our skin. Except we are told too much sunshine is bad for our skin, causing cancer and ageing our skin, so we cover up and wear sunscreens.
When taken orally Vitamin D is absorbed with fats through the intestinal walls. You can get it in food such as oily fish, beef liver, eggs, and cheese.
Vitamin D foods for vegetarians and vegans are limited, mushrooms are a good vegan alternative source of D2, and also contain low levels of D3.
Babies milk formula must be fortified with Vitamin D by law (source NHS website) and for babies that are solely breastfed a daily supplement of 10mcg (400iu) is recommended.
In some countries such as the United States certain foods such as milk, may have vitamin D added to them. However, in the UK, cows' milk is generally not fortified with vitamin D.
Another source of Vitamin D is a food supplement, preferably one in oil. There are a variety of strengths and ways of supplementing, such as tablets, capsules and sprays. Vitamin D tablets are not easily absorbed into the body because Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin, best absorbed with dietary fats.
Why do so many people have deficiency in this nutrient?
Low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in individuals living in northern latitudes, or with other reasons for a lack of regular sun exposure. This can include being housebound, we have all spent more time indoors during the Covid pandemic for example. Frail, elderly and obese have been shown to have low levels.
Having darker skin, or wearing clothes that cover most of the skin can result in lower levels of Vitamin D.
Deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis; hence women post menopause often have low levels.
Vegetarians and Vegans can be prone to low vitamin D because they are unable to eat a lot of the foods that contain vitamin D.
Why do you need Vitamin D3?
Low levels of Vitamin D can be associated with many health issues. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can be seen as rickets in children. Bone and muscle weakness in adults, causing greater risk of falls in the elderly. Bone pain, caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
Proven Benefits of Vitamin D
So, in general most of us would benefit from taking a Vitamin D supplement. When making your choice, remember the best way to supplement is Vitamin D3 as a softgel, in an oil, like our own High Strength Vitamin D3.