When is the Best Time to Take Vitamin D Supplements?
The road to the discovery of vitamin D began with recognition of the childhood bone disease of rickets. The first formal medical treatise on rickets was published by Francis Glisson in 1650, when it was identified as a new disease that was more frequent in the rich than in the poor. During the industrial revolution of the 1800s, the prevalence of rickets increased dramatically, ranging from 40% to 60% among children in crowded and polluted urban areas. In 1822, Sniadecki was the first to recognize and report the association of rickets with a lack of sunlight exposure. By the mid-1800s, cod liver oil had been established as an effective treatment for rickets. The work of Mellanby and McCollum led to the discovery of vitamin D as the agent in cod liver oil that had antirachitic properties. This discovery eventually led to the fortification of milk and other foods with vitamin D in the 1930s, and as a result rickets all but disappeared in North America and Europe.
However even today after all these years an estimated 40% of American adults may be vitamin D3 deficient. For African Americans, that number may be nearly double at 76% according to a new study by The Cooper Institute. But, Caucasians who avoid even minimal sun exposure may even have higher levels of vitamin D deficiency.
We all need different amounts of Vitamin D. It all depends on how deficient you are and how your body absorbs the vitamin. There are several populations that typically suffer from higher levels of this deficiency.
The list includes:
- People with poor eating habits
- Medical patients who take prescription medication long term for heartburn, acid reflux, and constipation
- Adults over age 65
- Premenopausal women
- People using sunblock religiously
- Medical patients suffering from chronic diseases
- People who avoid sun exposure
- People with dark skin who have higher amounts of melanin, reducing the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D from sun exposure
The good news? There are three easy fixes: sunlight, proper nutrition, and Vitamin D3 supplements. We primarily get vitamin D from sunlight and proper nutrition, see below for the list. Adults should consume 400-800 international units (or 10 to 20 mcg) of vitamin D daily but recent studies are recommending much higher doses since the population that is in need is already starting with a deficiency.
How does the body metabolize vitamin D?
The terminology related to the biochemistry of vitamin D can be confusing. Vitamin D has two forms and several metabolites. The two forms are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, called ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol, respectively. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin in response to ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight or can be obtained from the diet (i.e., animal sources such as deep-sea fatty fish, egg yolks, or liver) or from supplements. Few foods naturally have substantial vitamin D content, and dietary vitamin D is obtained primarily through fortified foods or supplements. Vitamin D2, which is found in some plants in the diet and is produced commercially by irradiation of yeast, is used for fortification and supplementation mostly for populations who follow a vegan diet.
Some evidence indicates that vitamin D2 may be metabolized more rapidly than vitamin D3, and possibly less effective form of the vitamin. Both forms of vitamin D are converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin [25(OH)D] in the liver, and the serum level of 25(OH) D is measured to determine the adequacy of vitamin D status. In the kidney, 25(OH)D is hydroxylated to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], which is the only biologically active form of vitamin D. Acting principally on the duodenum, 1,25(OH)2D increases calcium absorption. It also acts on bone cells, both osteoblasts and osteoclasts, to mobilize calcium.
Are vitamin D supplements important?
This fat-soluble vitamin comes in two forms: D2 and D3. Its D3 that helps our bodies absorb and maintain calcium and phosphate. Both are linked to bone health. However, sunlight has long been the source of our vitamin D due to very few foods that are truly rich enough in vitamin D. The vitamin has become known as the sunshine vitamin.
What Are Examples of Foods Rich in Vitamin D?
- Cow’s milk and Vitamin-D fortified milk.
- Oatmeal and whole grain fortified cereals that are high in fiber.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, halibut, mackerel, and tuna.
- Shrimp and oysters.
- Egg yolks (Pasture-raised).
- Wild mushrooms.
The Best Way to Take My Vitamin D Supplement?
If you are taking your vitamin D in pill form, experts recommend taking the pill with a full meal – preferably a fatty meal – to maximize absorption; however, most of the population is either not following these instructions or not absorbing the vitamin D3 that they swallow. Hence there is a possibility that an absorbable under the tongue vitamin D3 can have an advantage over the swallowed products by direct absorption into the blood stream. The advantage of any under the tongue or what the pharmaceutical industry coins as sublingual is the fact that you no longer need to worry about your gut absorption and fatty meals since the vitamin D3 absorbs under your tongue and directly into your bloodstream, no worries about fatty meals or no meals in the stomach at all!
When is the Best Time to Take My Vitamin D Supplement?
Finally, the question we posed at the start of this article, and we are here to try to answer it for you. There is a debate about the best time of day to take Vitamin D – there is some research that suggests Vitamin D may negatively impact your sleep. Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, recommends that you take your D3 in the morning since the vitamin will get to do its best work on absorbing the calcium in your diet. Monisha Bhanote, M.D., F.A.S.C.P., F.C.A.P. recommends that you take your vitamin D3 in the morning due to possibility of sleep disturbance as taking vitamin D supplements at night, when melatonin levels are naturally high, may interfere with melatonin production and affect sleep quality.
Dr. Bhanote suspects that because our bodies associate vitamin D with daytime—it is the sunshine vitamin, after all—taking the nutrient at night tricks our body into thinking we should be awake.
Until further research is available, we recommend you consume your Vitamin D3 supplements first thing in the morning. Make it part of your morning ritual. That way it is easier than having to remember to take them later in your busy day.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
- Jr., T.E.C. "Francis Glisson On The Treatment Of Rickets". American Academy Of Pediatrics, 2022, Accessed 21 Jan 2022.
- Thacher, Tom. Vitamin D Insufficiency. 2022, Accessed 21 Jan 2022.
- First Scientific Description Of A Vitamin D-Deficiency By Francis Glisson (1597–1677). World-Medicinehistory.Com, 2022.
- Vitamin D Fortification Of Milk. Healthy Eating | SF Gate, 2022.
- African-Americans At Greatest Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency - Cooper Institute. Cooperinstitute.Org, 2022.
- Armas LA, Hollis BW, Heaney RP. Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Nov;89(11):5387-91. doi: 10.1210/jc.2004-0360. PMID: 15531486.
- Place Mushrooms In Sunlight To Get Your Vitamin D. Fungi Perfecti, 2022.
- The Best (And Worst) Time Of Day To Take Vitamin D | What's Good By V. What's Good By V, 2022.
- Melatonin 10 Mg. Frunutta Dissolvable Vitamins, 2022.
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