Why You Need Vitamin D?

Why You Need Vitamin D?

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 D 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.

Who needs vitamin D3?

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.
  • Wearing hijab (head cover) or niqab (face veil) increases a woman’s risk of vitamin D deficiency, a national study has found. Conducted by the National Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics, the study found that 37.3 per cent of women had low levels of vitamin D compared to 5.1 per cent of men.
  • People living above the latitudes of 50 degrees have the highest chance of developing vitamin D deficiency. People living far from the equator developed light skin to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D during winter with low levels of UV radiation.

The good news? There are three easy fixes: sunlight, proper nutrition, and Vitamin D3 supplements. Our body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun, and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way 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. Many physicians are recommending 1000 to 5000iu daily dosing for women of child bearing age who are most commonly vitamin D deficient. Some patients are also placed on medications that have 50000iu of vitamin D which must always be done by prescription and under direct physician guidance.

What does vitamin D do for your body?

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.

Why 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. Hence the vitamin has become known as the sunshine vitamin.

Sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter, or in countries that people cover their skins.

Most health benefits of vitamin D are as follow:

  1. Healthy bones, Vitamin D is vital for bone health
  2. Reduced risk of flu
  3. Reduced risk of diabetes
  4. Healthy infants
  5. Healthy pregnancy
  6. Cancer prevention
  7. Prevents Osteoporosis and Fractures
  8. Improve Physical Performance
  9. Beneficial for Brain Development and Function
  10. Improves Cognitive Functions
  11. Reduces Depression
  12. Reduces Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
  13. Plays a Role in Alzheimer’s Disease
  14. Beneficial in Multiple Sclerosis
  15. Improves Sleep Quality
  16. Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
  17. Reduces Blood Pressure
  18. Prevents Obesity
  19. Has Anti-Inflammatory Role

Foods That Are High 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?

There are two major types of vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) – which is synthesized by plants
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) – which is made in large quantities in the skin when sunlight strikes bare skin

Vitamin D₃ (cholecalciferol) is the form of vitamin D that is naturally made by our bodies after the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It can also be found in vitamin supplements and foods, such as fortified milk, fatty fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks. However, the body cannot use vitamin D3 until it is changed into an active form of vitamin D by the liver and kidneys.

Since vitamin D3 is naturally found in the human body, it is considered the preferred form of vitamin D supplementation.

There is controversy about whether vitamin D₂ should be used as a supplement because it is not the form of vitamin D naturally made by the body. Evidence also shows that our bodies can store vitamin D3 better than vitamin D2 and that vitamin D3 raises blood levels of vitamin D quicker

If you are taking your vitamin D3 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, hence no worries about fatty meals or no meals in the stomach at all! 

When Is the Best Time to Take Vitamin D?

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 D3 – there is some research that suggests Vitamin D3 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.


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