D3: THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN
WHAT IS VITAMIN D AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays many different roles in your body, such as promoting the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate in the intestines. Without adequate vitamin D, your bones can become misshapen and brittle. In children, this can cause rickets. In the elderly, it can cause osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps to reduce inflammation, regulate your hormones and metabolism, and maintain proper immune and neuromuscular function.
There is even some evidence suggesting that vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers and improve cognitive function.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is primarily synthesized by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In order to get enough vitamin D, it is important to spend some time in the sunlight every day. This should be done outside of peak sunlight hours (before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.) to prevent sun damage.
Additional supplementation of vitamin D is often needed, especially for people in very northern and very southern latitudes, because there is simply not enough sunlight to get enough vitamin D. Populations in these parts of the world are often deficient in vitamin D, so looking for food and supplemental sources of vitamin D is important. The seasons, skin pigmentation and aging also affect sunlight exposure. This means that during the winter time, supplementation may be especially important. People with darker skin tones and the elderly may need to pay special attention to vitamin D too.
There are many plant-based products that are fortified with vitamin D. These include cereals as well as nut and soy milks. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that fat is essential for the absorption of vitamin D. Therefore, vitamin D-enriched foods should be consumed with a source of fat, such as nuts, oil and avocado.
GETTING VITAMIN D FROM SUPPLEMENTS
Since vitamin D is such an important vitamin, getting an additional dose from supplements is often advisable. When looking for vitamin D supplements, try to find vitamin D3 rather than D2 because the former is more readily utilized by the body. General guidelines suggest that most adults consume 600 IU of vitamin D per day, with the safe upper limit being 4,000 IU. Ask your health professional to check your vitamin D levels to see if you are deficient. More than 600 IU per day may be necessary for those who are deficient in order to get their levels back up.
Vitamin K2 complements vitamin D3 because they work in synergy. Vitamin K2 also plays an important role in bone mineralization. For most adults, eating a diet rich in dark leafy greens that includes a multivitamin allows them to meet vitamin K2 requirements.
Vitamin D is an incredibly essential nutrient; it's estimated that a few million people worldwide have low levels of this vitamin in their blood. We recommend that you get your vitamin D levels checked, spend time in the sun (safely), eat fortified foods and take supplements to optimise your vitamin D levels.