Why is Vitamin D3 Supplement Truly Essential For You (And How To Get It)
If ever someone asked me about that one supplement they should take everyday, my answer would be Vitamin D3.
Let me break this down for you, so that you can make an informed decision too, keeping your family’s health & wellbeing in mind! Don’t forget that good health can be maintained by being consistent with three important things. Sufficient cardiovascular exercises, simple & hygienic food and the adequate dosages of supplements to keep balance.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is, in fact, not a vitamin. A vitamin is a substance that is essential to human health but one that cannot be produced by the body. While Vitamin D is very much essential to human health, it can, in fact, be produced by the body when it is exposed to the UVB rays of the sun – therefore, it is not truly a Vitamin, but rather, is a hormone.
It is the only Vitamin like hormone that humans produce by themselves, all our other Vitamins are derived through our diet.
It is important to understand that Vitamin D2 is different from Vitamin D3, and that you really want to consume D3 and not D2. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is not produced naturally in the human body and therefore is similar to, but not identical to Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Most forms of ergocalciferol that we take as supplements are synthetic and research has shown that it is significantly less effective in raising human Vitamin D levels as compared to Vitamin D3. The potency of Vitamin D2 is less than one-third of the potency of Vitamin D3. Also, Vitamin D2 has less affinity for VDRs (Vitamin D receptors) than Vitamin D3. Recent studies have also shown that Vitamin D2 can actually reduce the levels of Vitamin D3 in the blood.
Thus, the form you want to consume is Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol).
The benefits go beyond bone health!
It was thought that Vitamin D only had a role to play with bone health, and that those with rickets needed D3 supplementation. Science has evolved and it is clear, today, that not just rickets and bone issues but many diseases are associated with low levels of Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D is a secosteroid, in which the B ring of the steroid structure is ruptured. The active form of vitamin D, 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25 (OH) 2D3], regulates numerous physiological and pharmacological processes, including bone and calcium homeostasis, cellular growth and differentiation, immunity, and cardiovascular function, through binding to the vitamin D receptor (VDR), a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. VDR ligands are promising in the treatment of bone and mineral disorders, cancer, autoimmune disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Bone & Muscle: with regular supplementation of the right quality, you will find improvements in your bone strength as well as muscle strength. Bones need calcium, Vitamin D is crucial in helping the body ‘absorb’ calcium, and Vitamin K2-7 helps the body ‘utilize’ calcium. If you take a plain calcium supplement which does not contain D3 & K2-7 then you are at risk of the calcium depositing in your arteries and leading to cardiovascular complications.
Heart: our heart contains Vitamin D Receptors (VDR) and that in itself suggests the relationship that Vitamin D3 can play with heart health. A study was done where the Vitamin D3 level was first checked in a sample size of 50,000 men, and then monitored for 10 years. The findings were that those who were deficient in Vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who had adequate levels of Vitamin D. There have been other studies that have associated low Vitamin D levels with cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and heart failure.
Immunity: there is a raft of research that has been conducted to address the query ‘does Vitamin D deficiency contribute to the development of various autoimmune diseases.’ ~ conclusions have clearly established a positive correlation. Cold & flu, MS, type 1 diabetes, TB, asthma, RA, and more – yes, associated with low Vitamin D levels.
Cognition: low Vitamin D levels cause a faster memory loss in adults. Age related cognitive decline is can be mitigated with Vitamin D supplementation. Parkinson’s & dementia – related to low Vitamin D levels. Neuromuscular motor skills can be improved with higher levels of Vitamin D – this is especially important for athletes.
Falls & fractures: both can be dramatically reduced with higher levels of Vitamin D.
Seniors: have fewer Vitamin D receptors as they age, and their skin produces less Vitamin D from the same sun exposure. They also often spend more time indoors, due to age. Seniors often have one or more diseases as well and as they take drugs to combat those the drugs have a negative effect on Vitamin D levels. Those with poorly functioning kidneys may not process Vitamin D well.
Diabetes: you will find a direct correlation between an increase in diabetes and a decrease in Vitamin D levels – just look at India! > 2000IU of Vitamin D a day can help prevent diabetes, >4000I.U can help treat (not cure) diabetes.
Infants: RDA has set the infant/kid dosage to be 400I.U. a day, but this is not enough. After a lot of studies France now suggests 1000I.U. a day for infants, soon there will be massive changes in Vitamin D RDA guidelines the World over. For kids to have good levels of Vitamin D means a 50% reduction in the chances of getting asthma, infections, flu & common cold, bed wetting, chronic illness, and a lot more. It also dramatically increases the the neuromuscular development, motor skills development, cognitive functions, and helps raise various other areas to optimal functionality.
Fertility & sperm: if ‘both’ male & female have good levels of Vitamin D then conception is much more successful. Testosterone levels are proportional to Vitamin D levels and infertility is higher in groups with low Vitamin D levels.
ADHD, alzheimer's, autism, back pain, depression, hair, gout, inflammation, pregnancy, myopia, and on and on and on it goes…..
Do I need to Supplement?
Majority of Indians are Vitamin D deficient. This is primarily due to the fact that we live our lives in boxes – home, car, office – and thus have no exposure to direct Sunlight.
An adult needs to spend, on average, an hour a day under direct Sunlight to generate sufficient Vitamin D3 levels. Importantly, one needs to catch the mid-afternoon sun which is between 11am to 3pm. This, immediately rules most of us out.
Further, we are dark skinned and hence our ability to absorb the rays and produce D3 is lower.
So yes, Vitamin D3 supplementation is very important if you want to improve your health and fitness levels.
The plant Lichen- A source of Vitamin D3 used in many vegan suppliments!
Being ‘D-ficient’ can propel the onslaught of various diseases such as various cancers (prostate, breast, skin, and others), heart disease, osteoporosis, MS, diabetes, rickets, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, chronic pain, TB, cognitive decline, psoriasis, bone fractures, depression, and many more – the list is long.
While it is believed that to ‘prevent’ such diseases one needs to maintain >30ng/l level of D, and to ‘treat’ one needs >50 ng/l level of Vitamin D. Although, to ‘greatly benefit‘ the current movement is towards 100-120ng/l level of D. If this is true, then all you want to do is be around the 100 ng/l mark.
That is not to say that just because your Vitamin D level is around 100 ng/l you will not suffer a bone fracture, or will not experience any of the diseases that a deficiency in Vitamin D is related to. Sure, it can happen due to other factors as well, but, what we do know for sure is that Vitamin D is very important and has a major role to play in our earnest efforts to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
How often should we consume it? Daily, weekly, or monthly, and what form?
There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community on what the Vitamin D3 dosage should be, whether it should be consumed daily or weekly, and what the toxicity levels are.
Many Doctors suggest consuming a 60,000I.U. strength sachet once every two weeks as this is convenient. I am completely against this, and feel that convenience should take a step back when good health is in question.
We take Vitamin D3 supplementation only because we don’t spend enough time under direct Sunlight to where we can produce it ourselves. Supplementing once in two weeks is akin to spending 14 days in a cave and then spending the 15th day under direct sunlight for 15 hours until you are burnt!
We also know that Vitamin D3 has a very short half-life, which means in about 2-3 weeks your level may drop by as much as half.
Supplementing with high doses once in awhile creates spikes and drops in our Vitamin D levels, this is not healthy and should be avoided.
A little a day goes a long way, and that’s how it is with everything in life. An hour of exercise daily is better than 7 hours of exercise only on a Sunday, smaller & more frequent meals are healthier than a big meal once a day, and supplementation is no different.
How much of Vitamin D3 should you take each day?
A few years ago most daily supplements offered 1000I.U per serving, but as research has progressed the daily dosage has now increased to between 2500I.U. to 5000I.U. a day.
If you take 2500I.U. a day you should be fine, but you must be regular and take it daily. It is also a good idea for you to test yourself regularly so you understand your levels and can see how the supplement is working on you, and can then calibrate accordingly.
Children can be given 400-500I.U. a day.
Studies have shown that doses up to 10,000I.U. a day are safe, but this is not recommended for all. It is always best to test your levels and then calibrate your intake.
There are a few options when it comes to Vitamin D3 supplementation.
1. Synthetic Vitamin D3
2. Vitamin D3 derived from Lanolin (Sheep Wool)
3. Vitamin D3 derived from Lichens (plant-based and Vegan)
For a greater bio-availability, greater absorption, and a sustainable source, Lichens is the preferred option.
Vitamin D is ‘fat-soluble’ and hence it is recommended you consume your supplement post a meal. Also, look for formulations where the Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is offered in a fat – Unived offers a Vegan Vitamin D3, D-veg, which gives you 2500I.U. of plant-based Vitamin D3 with every serving. The D3 has been suspended in organic extra virgin cold pressed Coconut oil (a good fat) as this helps with the bio-availability.
What does Vitamin D3 supplementation cost?
Not more than Rs. 500 per month, a nominal price to pay for the massive health benefits.
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