Vitamin D: essential for optimal health
Vitamin D is also known as the "sun vitamin". It is essential for your body and there are many reasons why getting enough vitamin D is important for your performance and your overall health.
This article explains the many benefits of vitamin D, the risks of a vitamin D deficiency and good guidelines for getting enough vitamin D.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K) that is also a hormone that can be stored in the body.
In order to have sufficient vitamin D available our body can make vitamin D from the sun and it's also found (although not abundant) in some of our foods.
Vitamin D occurs in two different forms:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): found in some mushrooms
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): found in fatty fish, cod liver oil and egg yolks
Both ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol are active forms of vitamin D, but vitamin cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is by far the most powerful form of vitamin D.
Vitamin D has to be converted into an active form in our body: 25-hydroxyvitamin D (for storage) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium from the intestine, helping to build strong bones and teeth. But this is not the only function of vitamin D.
Almost every cell in our body has a vitamin D receptor and vitamin D is therefore involved in many important processes in our body like our metabolism, cell growth and our immune system.
The benefits of vitamin D
In recent years, much research has been done into the effects and benefits of taking extra vitamin D through supplements and many studies show that taking a vitamin D supplement can significantly contribute to better health:
- Stronger bones.
A vitamin D supplement can help in the prevention of osteoporosis bone fractures. Especially in the elderly population. *
- Stronger muscles.
More vitamin D can improve muscle strength and can also increase the amount of testosterone (a hormone that contributes to muscle growth) in men.
- Lower risk of diabetes.
A vitamin D deficiency doubles the risk of insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Sufficient vitamin D supplementation can also significantly reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes in children.
- Lower risk of cancer.
Sufficient vitamin D lowers the risk of certain types of cancer.
- Good for your heart.
Enough vitamin D lowers the amount of triglycerides in the blood, stimulates blood circulation and improves cholesterol levels.
* Important note: the use of calcium supplements with extra vitamin D supplements can increase the risk of arteriosclerosis. So please consult with a physician when using calcium supplements.
What happens when you are vitamin D deficient?
A vitamin D deficiency is detrimental to our health and is linked to many diseases and maladies. This includes:
- Growth problems and bone disorders in children
- Muscle weakness and muscle cramps
- Lack of energy
- Impaired immune function
- Bad teeth
- An increased risk of bone fractures
And a vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to various types of cancer, type I and type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure and thyroid problems.
When do you have vitamin D deficiency?
Research has shown that many people do not get enough vitamin D. Despite the fact that we can make it ourselves, vitamin D deficiency is actually very common and it is estimated that 1 billion people in the world are actually vitamin D deficient.
The only way to find out whether you have a vitamin D deficiency is to measure the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25 (OH) D) in your blood.
According to current guidelines, 20 ng / ml (50 nmol / l) is sufficient, however, there are experts who claim that 30 ng / ml (75 nmol / l) is minimal. Based on the latter, you could take extra vitamin D to improve these values when your blood levels aren't optimal.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Vitamin D deficiency in people is becoming more and more common and unless you live closer to the equator, you probably won't get enough sunlight during the winter months for your body to make enough vitamin D.
The current recommended daily amount of vitamin D for adults is about 10 μg to 20 μg (400-800IU) per day, but the amount of vitamin D you actually need depends various factors such as; age, skin colour, lifestyle and where you live.
Especially the elderly and people with dark skin often need more vitamin D and also young women, children and people who eat a plant-based diet (vegetarians, vegans) have a higher risk of becoming vitamin D deficient.
What are good sources of vitamin D?
Direct sun exposure is by far the best way to get your daily vitamin D and 30 minutes (between 11:00h and 15:00h) of sun exposure to the face, legs and/or back at least twice a week should give you plenty of vitamin D.
But you should bear in mind that getting too much direct sun exposure might expose you to potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing UV radiation. It's probably a better idea to get vitamin D from foods or from supplements.
The best food sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, egg yolks and fortified foods. We can get some vitamin D through these foods, but surprisingly very few foods contain sufficient vitamin D.
A vitamin D supplement is therefore recommended and we advise people to take 25 μg to 50 μg (1000-2000UU) of vitamin D3 a day to ensure that they get enough vitamin D.
It is also good to mention that it is important to have enough magnesium in your diet, because magnesium supports the production of vitamin D in your body.
Is too much vitamin D harmful?
According to the Dutch Health Council, the upper limit for vitamin D is currently 25 μg for children and 50 μg for adults. It's nearly impossible to get too much vitamin D from sunlight or from foods and even intakes of up to 20,000IU showed no signs of toxicity.
So unless you are eat 16 lbs of salmon a day, drink too much cod liver oil or take lots of supplements every day, you will most likely only experience the benefits.
Vitamin D is essential for our body. However, a vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more prevalent and the amount of vitamin D that we can get from our food or from sun exposure may not be optimal.
Many people aren't getting enough vitamin D, so it's probably a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement.
A vitamin D supplement is easy to take, inexpensive and has no harmful effects and can have many benefits on your health.
Are you looking for an excellent plant-based source of vitamin D3? Our vitamin D3 is made from moss and contains a safe and responsible amount (25 μg / 1000IU) of vitamin D3 to make sure that you get enough vitamin D for optimal health.