In a period of only approximately five decades at the end of the nineteenth century, the vitamins were discovered. This stemmed from the observation and comparative analysis between diet, nutrition, and its effect on disease and overall health. Among the vitamins discovered during this era of intellectual growth was Vitamin D. There are many things to be said of it, some true, some false, and some that are presently being studied.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D technically refers to a multitude of substances. These can include ergocalciferol or Vitamin D2 and cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3 as well as other metabolites of this family.1 Additionally, it is what is known as a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it can it is absorbed along with fats in the diet and can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
It has a plethora of functions within the human body. It regulates calcium and phosphate absorption and metabolism, as well as clearing phosphate from the renal system.2 The human body needs it for many other reasons as well. Our muscles need it to move, the nerves in our body need it to carry messages between the brain and everybody part, and the immune system needs it to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.3
Historically, there are approximations of when it was noticed that our bodies require Vitamin D. One example is that of the industrial revolution. During this time, many workers were relocated to work indoors and as the smoke from these industrial complexes blocked the sunlight there was a significantly reduced amount of sun exposure. As this went on, physicians noticed an increase in bone and skeletal diseases. This brought on the realization that this was due to lack of exposure to sunlight which as we will learn is one of the main sources of Vitamin D production.
Scientists are not quite sure why it developed, but many consider that it acted as some sort of sunscreen. If we are considering evolution, this may have offered a creative solution for the sea to land conundrum, specifically that of calcium. Transitioning from an environment saturated with calcium to one with significantly less posed a problem. This problem may have been solved due to its ability to provide all cells with the necessary amount of calcium. This likely made more of the calcium already present in the body usable and efficiently distributed.4
How Do You Get Vitamin D?
It was given the nickname “the sunshine vitamin” due to the way our bodies produce it. Fascinatingly enough, our bodies form it as a reaction to the exposure of ultraviolet light, more specifically the UVB light. It is estimated that exposure of just 6-10% of the body’s surface to sunlight is equivalent to consuming 600-1000IU of Vitamin D. 4 However, as we age our skin slowly loses the ability to efficiently absorb and convert UV light into Vitamin D, and supplementing becomes necessary.
How Does the Body Process It?
Unlike most other fat-soluble vitamins, it is not stored in the liver. It reaches the liver after being absorbed through the gut or the skin. However, from the liver it is evenly distributed to other various tissues and organs throughout the body.
Common Reported Benefits & Effects
Studies have shown that a significantly reduced Vitamin D level, or deficiency is correlated with an increased susceptibility to infection. Immune cells in autoimmune diseases rely on its restorative effects. The beneficial effects of supplementing it in deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond its positive effects on bone health.5
It plays a crucial role in the way that that the body responds to inflammation. Researchers have discovered specific molecular and signaling events by which it inhibits inflammation. Low levels of it failed to inhibit the inflammatory cascade, while levels considered adequate did inhibit inflammatory signaling.6 This is amazing and it does not have those unwanted side effects of anti-inflammatory medications, such as preventing the blood from clotting, and stomach ulcers.
Depression is a debilitating illness that effects millions worldwide. There are many studies that note a correlation between low levels of Vitamin D and depression. Over the years it has not become uncommon for a therapist to recommend using an instrument called a light box to assist in providing potential relief in those suffering from depression associated with SAD or seasonal affective disorder.7
Potential Side Effects and Myths
The More Vitamin D You Take the Better. Myth!
Vitamin D toxicity is generally caused by taking more of the supplement than recommended. Additionally, it is very unlikely to be caused by over exposure to sunlight or by eating fortified foods. This is because the body regulates the amount of it produced from exposure to sunlight and you would very likely not be able to consume enough of a given food to yield an overdose of it.8 It is important to be mindful of the amount of it you require and to not take more than recommended unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare professional.
Is There a Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic? Yes!
Vitamin D deficiency has indeed reached epidemic proportions. A study done in 2017 showed that 2/3 or those asked did not know the duration of time that one must be exposed to sunlight to yield enough of it.9 Additionally, this is important to consider since over the past 8 months, many have been working and going to school from home furthering reducing their exposure to the Vitamin D generating benefits of sunlight.
The Longer Time I Spend in The Sunlight the Better. Myth!
Granted, sunlight is the best way to get your daily dose, this does not mean the longer you spend in it the healthier it is. Statistics indicate that 100,350 people will be diagnosed with a skin cancer called melanoma.10 Albeit overexposure to ultraviolet light is not the only cause, it is one of the biggest contributions. 10-30 minutes in midday sunlight once a day is sufficient.
One can acquire a form of bulk powder. As a daily supplement this may not be the best option since as mentioned it can be quite dangerous if more than needed is consumed.
Capsules or pills are another option. This can be useful for on the go since it is usually required to take 1 or 2 pills once a day. However, the amount of it in the form of pills is very effected by the amount of fat content consumed with it. In some, only 55% is absorbed.11
Where to Buy Vitamin D
Supplements can be purchased from many pharmacies, apothecaries, and supermarkets. It is recommended to do research on the supplement you are buying as well having an idea of how much your body needs. My personal choice is in its liquid form. Quicksilver Scientific makes a great nano emulsified D3K2 supplement that can now be purchased at The Alchemist’s Kitchen.
How Much Vitamin D should I take?
Up to 2000IU is recommended safe, slightly more if you do not have sufficient sun exposure. Always contact your physician before exceeding recommended dosage.
How Much Vitamin D is Too Much?
According to a Harvard study large doses (such as more than 4,000 IU a day) should be taken only under the instructions of your healthcare provider. More than this can prove toxic.13
What Foods Contain Vitamin D?
Several foods in many categories contain it, such as spinach, cabbage, beef, salmon, mackerel, cod, eggs, cheese, milk. There are many options and you can always find foods that fit into your specific dietary/nutritional lifestyle.
What Causes Low Vitamin D?
There can be many possible causes for low Vitamin D. Such as poor sun exposure therefore insufficient production in the skin, dietary decisions that do not contain adequate amounts, and health conditions that can alter the way skin and body produce as well as absorb it.
What is the Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D is usually referring to Vitamin D2 and D3. The main difference is that Vitamin D2 is most commonly found in plant and in foods that it is added to and Vitamin D3 is the Vitamin D that is produced in your body as a result of sun exposure and animal sources.
- PDR for Nutritional Supplements 2nd Edition, Sheldon Saul Hendler with David M. Rorvik 2008, Page 669.
- Professional Guide to Diseases 8th Edition, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Page 871
- National Institute of Health, Vitamin D Factsheet – Link
- Cowart, L. (2019, April 29). The weird history of vitamin D – and what it actually has to do with sun. – Link
- Aranow, C. (2011, August). Vitamin D and the immune system. – Link
- How vitamin D inhibits inflammation. (2012, February 23). – Link
- Aless, Cuomo, R., Giordano, N., Goracci, A., & Fagiolini, A. (n.d.). Depression and Vitamin D Deficiency: Causality, Assessment, and Clinical Practice Implications. – Link
- Katherine Zeratsky, R. (2020, April 17). Vitamin D toxicity: What if you get too much? – Link
- Lhamo, Y., Chugh, P. K., Gautam, S. R., & Tripathi, C. D. (2017). Epidemic of Vitamin D Deficiency and Its Management: Awareness among Indian Medical Undergraduates. – Link
- Melanoma Skin Cancer Statistics. – Link
- Šimoliūnas, E., Rinkūnaitė, I., Bukelskienė, Ž, & Bukelskienė, V. (2019, June 10). Bioavailability of Different Vitamin D Oral Supplements in Laboratory Animal Model. – Link
- Kadappan AS;Guo C;Gumus CE;Bessey A;Wood RJ;McClements DJ;Liu Z;. (n.d.). The Efficacy of Nanoemulsion-Based Delivery to Improve Vitamin D Absorption: Comparison of In Vitro and In Vivo Studies. – Link
- Vitamin D. Harvard Health (2020, April 08). – Link