Benefits, Deficiencies, Sources and Supplements

You’ve probably heard people call vitamin D the “sun vitamin” —one of the body created by UV radiation exposure and that, when you have enough of it, can liven up your mood. But the benefits of vitamin D – more specifically, vitamin D3 – outweigh the smile on your face (although that’s very important). It actually plays a key role in bone health, the strength of your teeth and the power of your immune system. Keep reading to learn how.

    How does vitamin D work?

    “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is both a food and acts as a hormone,” he explains. Melissa Perst, DCN, RDN, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Its main function is to help the body absorb and regulate calcium and phosphorus, making sure they are available to strengthen bones and teeth, she adds. It also helps in the absorption of magnesium, which supports muscle and nerve function as well as energy levels.

    Vitamin D also strengthens the immune system, preventing the production of inflammatory cytokines, a molecule that signals inflammation, he explains. Heather Mangieri, RDNsports and wellness dietitian in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    It is two main types of vitamin D.– Vitamin D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 naturally occurs in some plants, while vitamin D3 is found in some animals and produced by human skin through sunlight exposure. Mangieri explains that D3 is considered the more potent form of the vitamin because it “has been shown to raise levels higher and for a longer time than D2.”

    Vitamin D benefits

    Ongoing research continues to uncover how important vitamin D is to overall health. “It is involved in many metabolic pathways and scientists continue to explore its role in heart disease, diabetes, depressionand multiple sclerosis, among others, ”adds Mangieri. That said, here are some ways in which proper vitamin D levels can improve your overall well-being:

    Strong Bones

    Lack of vitamin D, especially in the elderly, increases the risk of fractures and feeds on weak and soft bones overall, explains Perst. “This condition is called osteomalacia and can cause bone malformations, pain, epileptic seizures of low blood calcium levels, muscle spasms and dental abnormalities,” she adds. Low vitamin D as well increases risk of developing osteoporosis or fragile bone disease.

    Strong Muscles

    Although more research on the relationship between vitamin D and muscle mass is warranted, some studies found that high vitamin D levels are linked with enhanced strength.

    Improved Immunity

    Because of his ability to regulate the production of inflammatory cytokinesVitamin D has been found to help the immune system overcome bacterial and viral infections such as pneumonia and even COVID-19.

    Better Heart Health

    Vitamin D deficiency was associated with heart disease and cardiovascular disease-related mortality. However, further research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can improve these conditions.

    Enhanced Mood

    Low vitamin D was scientifically linked to depression, and vitamin D supplements are sometimes used to treat it. However, more research is needed to confirm that supplements can reverse symptoms of clinical depression.

    Sources of vitamin D.

    Although vitamin D is found in some foods, they are not foods that most people regularly put on their plates. “Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout, as well as fish liver oils, are among the best natural sources,” says Mangieri. “Cheese, egg yolks, beef liver and mushrooms also have small amounts.” Other foods such as milk, yogurt, cereal and orange juice are often fortified with vitamin D, which means the food is added.

    “It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from foods alone,” Perst admits. “We need to consume vitamin D and get some exposure to the sun to make sure we have an adequate supply for our body to use.” That being said, soaking up the sun is not always easy.

    “Cloud cover, season, distance from the equator, pollution, skin pigmentation, age and wearing sunblock can all affect how much vitamin D your body is able to produce,” explains Mangieri. Moreover, there is the danger of skin cancer.

    Mangieri adds that the recommended daily intake of vitamin D from the United States for children and adults is 600 international units (IU). “Although I fully encourage food first-timers,” she says, “when it comes to Vitamin D, a meal supplement is often needed.”

    Lack of vitamin D.

    It is necessary to supplement with vitamin D only if you know for sure that your levels are low, which Mangieri says is difficult to confirm without a blood test done by a doctor. “Most symptoms are unclear and can be easily overlooked,” she adds. “As a sports dietitian, I worry about a lack of vitamin D when I see an athlete complaining of fatigue, bone pain, muscle aches, or presenting multiple bone fractures or injuries.”

    Other symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness and mood swings, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

    Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, alleviate, prevent or cure any disease.

    Vitamin D supplements

    You can get both vitamins D2 and D3 in supplement form. Vitamin D2 supplements are made by exposing the ergosterol in yeast to UV radiation, explains Perst, and vitamin D3 supplements come from the exposure of 7-dehydrocholesterol – obtained from lanolin in sheep’s wool – to UV radiation. “There is also an animal version of vitamin D3made of lichen, ”she adds, which comes from algae.

    “For people who follow a vegan diet or avoid certain animal products, they can contact the manufacturer of dietary supplements to inquire about the product’s ingredients and how it was obtained and processed,” says Perst. It is also important to note that vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA. If you need one, Perst recommends looking for a standalone vitamin D supplement versus multi-vitamin to make sure you’re getting enough food.

    “Look for marks with the USP confirmation mark on the label or that have been tested by others with programs such as NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice, “Mangieri adds.” By choosing supplements with these labels, you know that what is on the label is actually present in the product in the amounts stated. ”

    Most importantly, Mangieri suggests talking to your doctor or registered dietitian before starting the supplement. A professional, she says, can help determine how much you should take.

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