Whether you’re new to reading up on Vitamin D or you’ve been following the latest news on the sunshine vitamin for a while now, you’ve probably noticed that there’s conflicting research out there.

On one side, you have doctors and nutrition experts pointing to a massive body of research hinting that almost half of the population have insufficient levels of Vitamin D in the body. As a result, they’re advocating for higher intakes and blood levels of the vitamin.

On the other side, there are researchers saying that higher doses of Vitamin D aren’t truly necessary and the so-called sunshine vitamin epidemic is non-existent.

In this short article, we’ll find out what’s the latest in Vitamin D news and answer the most pressing question in everyone’s mind right now: do you need Vitamin D supplementation?

Hint: the short, unbiased answer is yes.

Vitamin D at a Glance

As a fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D plays a significant role in promoting cell growth, sufficient calcium absorption in the gut, immune system function, and inflammation reduction.

You get Vitamin D from sun exposure, the food you eat, and supplements. Sunlight triggers Vitamin D formation in the body. Meanwhile, good food sources include eggs (yolks primarily!), fatty fish, beef liver, and cheese.

The most important role of this vitamin is regulating normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. With insufficient Vitamin D levels in the body, bones can’t properly develop in children and put adults at risk for thin, brittle bones resulting to increase risk of fracture.

There’s More to Vitamin D Than Meets The Eye

Sun and Vitamin D written on blackboard

Recent research findings have also uncovered that there’s more to Vitamin D than meets the eye.

Apart from its usual role in bone development and neuromuscular functions, a growing body of evidence reveals that the sunshine vitamin may be the light at the end of the tunnel in preventing and reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

How?

Say hello to Vitamin D3, also known as, cholecalciferol.

As the bioactive component of Vitamin D, our body naturally produces D3 when exposed to sunlight in the liver and kidneys, converting it into its hormone form (or active form).

Asian woman traveler using skincare sunblock cream for sun protection in summer travel beach lifestyle

Research done at Ohio University suggests that vitamin D3 can potentially reduce the risk of heart attacks by preserving or restoring the endothelium after experiencing oxidative stress.

Quick fact: The endothelium is the thin layer of tissue that lines the blood vessels within your vascular system (composed of your blood vessels).

Think of oxidative stress as the mechanism behind metal rust. As much as possible, we want to delay the rusting process (or lessen its severity) as much as possible.

Published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine early this year, the study describes how researchers utilized nanosensors in identifying the molecular mechanisms that vitamin D3 does in the endothelium.

Prior to their research, it has been thought that the endothelium does little other than facilitating transport of water and electrolytes in the bloodstream.

The researchers further found out that Vitamin D3 is a powerful trigger of nitric oxide, a molecule known to play a crucial role in controlling blood flow as well as preventing the unnecessary formation of blood clots.

Professor Tadeusz Malinski, the senior author of the study, further says: This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don’t have to develop a new drug. We already have it.

Besides prevention in the development and/or progression of cardiovascular diseases, earlier studies have also shed light in Vitamin D3’s role in preventing the progression of chronic kidney disease and systemic lupus erythematosus. Both disease conditions are characterized by noticeable dysfunction in the endothelium.

How Much Vitamin D3 Do You Need (and other questions)?

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First off, how about Vitamin D2 you ask?

While both are beneficial for your health, it’s worth noting that vitamin D3 is far better absorbed and utilized by the body.

Next, why consider supplementation?

Although vitamin D2 is present in several plant-based sources, vitamin D3 is largely limited to a small selection of animal-based sources like fish, cod liver oil, and eggs.  As a result, getting vitamin D3 from our food is difficult, particularly for vegans.

So how much Vitamin D supplementation do you need?

The long answer is it depends on your age, body weight, and race. Environmental factors may also be considered such as the degree of sun exposure, seasons, and latitude.

It’s also worth noting that overweight individuals likely require higher amounts of Vitamin D, around two or three times the amount recommended for their age group.

The same goes for people with darker skin tones who need more time in the sun to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as fair skinned folks. Subsequently, people with darker skin tones should supplement at slightly higher doses because their bodies are even less likely to be able to produce adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin.

Ultimately, the first step should be to get your Vitamin D levels checked.  Then, with the help of an Integrative & Functional Medicine doctor, the proper dosage can be tailored to your needs.

The Takeaway

The chances are high that you need Vitamin D supplementation, particularly vitamin D3, when you get little or no sun exposure. The same goes for those who don’t eat a healthy, varied diet.

Curious about your current vitamin D levels and the need for supplementation? The Hauser Health team is here to help you out. Ask away!

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You'll also get occasional emails from Dr. Hauser with healthy tips.