Vitamin D provides many health benefits to the body. As vitamin D circulates through the bloodstream, it helps to absorb phosphorus and calcium that helps keep the bones strong.
Commonly referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ it boosts the immune system. Also, it’s beneficial to weight loss, heart health, and even mood. You can get vitamin D from supplements and foods, and the skin produces vitamin D if exposed to sunlight.[i]
There is no doubt that vitamin D is an essential nutrient. It can be found in breakfast staples like fortified orange juice, milk, and eggs. You can also find it in mushrooms and fatty fish like herring, salmon, and halibut.
Vitamin D Health Benefits
Vitamin D offers numerous health benefits. It’s well known for strengthening muscles and bones, improving heart function, weight loss, increased mood, and boost immunity.
Vitamin D is widely known for helping both bones and muscles. It improves calcium absorption in the colon. If the body doesn’t have sufficient vitamin D to absorb calcium, it will pull calcium from your bones. This makes the bones weak and might result in osteoporosis and fractures.[iv]
Studies found that vitamin D may help in improving muscle strength and reducing fractures. Furthermore, higher dietary vitamin D levels may be appropriate for achieving high peak bone mass in adulthood and ultimately prevent osteoporosis.
Studies show that vitamin D might help in protecting against pneumonia and acute respiratory infections.[v] During the coronavirus pandemic, primary evidence had surfaced showing that lack of enough vitamin D might increase risks of covid-19 infection as well as severe illness. Moreover, more work should be done to determine exactly what role vitamin D plays with regards to fighting covid-19.[vi]
A study was conducted where postmenopausal women received vitamin D supplements for a weight loss evaluation. The results showed that women who had enough vitamin D levels lost more fat, realized a greater reduction in waist circumference, and eventually lost more weight. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that vitamin D doesn’t help lose weight.[vii]
Research shows that people with high blood pressure and obesity tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. Some studies showed that vitamin D might help control blood pressure. Also, research has shown that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, but clinical research hasn’t shown that supplements reduce these risks.[viii]
Research has shown that individuals with depression usually lack enough vitamin D. Nevertheless, it isn’t clear if vitamin D deficiency contributes to depression and behavior changes like time outside and diet and thus causes vitamin D deficiency.
Studies have, over the years, investigated vitamin D’s impact on the brain. They have found possible action mechanisms that might show how lack of vitamin D might result in depression. Also, they have found that high levels of vitamin D might help reduce vitamin D symptoms.[ix]
Vitamin D Deficiency
Research shows that more than a billion people across the globe has vitamin D deficiency.[ii] Associated conditions and symptoms include:
Tiredness and Fatigue
Lack of vitamin D can cause tiredness or fatigue. This is often overlooked as a possible cause. Case studies show that low blood levels might cause fatigue and ultimately negatively affect the quality of your life.
Back and Bone Pain
Vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining healthy bones. First, the vitamin helps improve calcium absorption in the body. Lower back and bone pain might be symptoms of insufficient vitamin D in your blood. Studies found a direct relationship between chronic lower back pain and vitamin D deficiency.
Depression might be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. A study linked deficiency to a depressed mood, especially among older adults. Depression is largely associated with reduced vitamin D levels, and some researchers have found that taking vitamin D supplements improves mood.
Impaired Wound Healing
Slow healing of the wounds after injury or surgery might be a sign that your body has low levels of vitamin D. Different studies show that vitamin D increases the production of compounds, which are crucial in the formation of new skin, an essential part of the wound healing process. Overall, lack of enough vitamin D might lead to poor wound healing after infection, injury, or surgery.[iii]
Possible Side Effects
Recommended levels of vitamin D are generally safe. However, if you take a lot of vitamin D, it might have lethal side effects. High levels of vitamin D might cause excessive calcium absorption, which eventually results in a condition known as hypercalcemia, which might interfere with your heart and brain’s normal function, resulting in kidney stones and might weaken the bones. Other vitamin D side effects include:
Poor Appetite, Vomiting, And Nausea
Most of the side effects associated with high levels of vitamin D are linked to too much calcium in the blood. Nevertheless, these symptoms may not occur in everyone with high levels of calcium. In some individuals, high levels of vitamin D might result in loss of appetite, vomiting, and nausea because of elevated calcium levels.[x]
Diarrhea, Constipation, And Stomach Pain
Diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain are some of the digestive complaints related to irritable bowel syndrome or food intolerances. Nevertheless, they might also be a sign of high levels of calcium resulting from vitamin D intoxication. These signs might occur among individuals receiving higher vitamin D doses.
Since vitamin D boosts calcium absorption in the body, getting adequate amounts is vital for strong bones. Nevertheless, too much vitamin D might be detrimental to strong bones. Research shows that very high levels of calcium might result in low vitamin K2 levels in the blood.
Dosage and Preparation
Unless you reside in a region with lots of sunlight, getting the recommended dose of vitamin D naturally through the sun and food is difficult. Vitamin D’s recommended daily intake is 15mcg for individuals between 1 year and 70 years and 20 mcg for those more than 70 years old.
4,000 IU is a safer upper limit for most people. You should get a blood test to help you know exactly whether you need any additional vitamin D.[xi]
More importantly, if you’ve previously been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency or for those at risk, you might want to know the right amounts of vitamin D you get from supplement and food sources.
Ways To Get Vitamin D
If you would like to increase your vitamin D levels, you can increase the amounts in your food, get more sunlight, or take supplements. In essence, it’s not easy to get adequate vitamin D through food alone, particularly if you do not want to consume diets rich in tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, halibut, fresh salmon, egg yolks, cod liver oil, cheese, cereal, butter or beef liver.
Considering the factors that determine the amounts of vitamin D produced by the skin naturally, it isn’t a surprise that many people need help getting enough vitamin D through food. Natural food sources of vitamin D include cod liver oils, egg yolks, and fatty fish. Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D2.
Vegetarians only have a few of these choices that might be part of their diet. Vegans can only get vitamin D from cereal. This makes supplements more important. However, you can add more sources of vitamin D2 to your daily diet. Sources of vitamin D2 include mushrooms (portabella), soymilk, oat, and almond.
Supplements are an easy way to make sure you get enough vitamin D every day; evidence shows that supplements are just as effective as food sources and sunlight.
If you want to take vitamin D supplements, talk to the doctor about the dosage that’s more appropriate for you.[xii] Essentially, the FDA does not regulate supplements, so you should always make sure that you purchase from reputed brands. Look for supplements that have the USP label.
What is the main benefit of taking vitamin D?
What food is high in vitamin D?
What are the effects of vitamin D3 deficiency?
• Multiple sclerosis
• Some types of cancer like breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
• Falls in some people
• Immune system and infections disorders
• High blood pressure and heart disease
What are the best sources of vitamin D?
What does vitamin D do?
How can you boost vitamin D intake?
• Spending more time in sunlight
• Eating more mushrooms
• Eating seafood and fatty fish
• Including egg yolks in your food
• Eat fortified foods
• Taking supplements
Which is the best vitamin D?
- [i] Hymøller L, Jensen SK. 25-hydroxyvitamin D circulates in different fractions of calf plasma if the parent compound is vitamin D₂ or vitamin D₃, respectively. J Dairy Res. 2016;83(1):67-71. doi:10.1017/S0022029915000588
- [ii] Lai S, Jiao B, Diao T, et al. Optimal management of large proximal ureteral stones (>10 mm): A systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials. Int J Surg. 2020;80:205-217. doi:10.1016/j.ijsu.2020.06.025
- [iii] Sahota O. Understanding vitamin D deficiency. Age Ageing. 2014;43(5):589-591. doi:10.1093/ageing/afu104
- [iv] Hernigou P, Sitbon J, Dubory A, Auregan JC. Vitamin D history part III: the “modern times”-new questions for orthopaedic practice: deficiency, cell therapy, osteomalacia, fractures, supplementation, infections. Int Orthop. 2019;43(7):1755-1771. doi:10.1007/s00264-019-04334-w
- [v] Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017;356:i6583. Published 2017 Feb 15. doi:10.1136/bmj.i6583
- [vi] Ali N. Role of vitamin D in preventing of COVID-19 infection, progression and severity. J Infect Public Health. 2020;13(10):1373-1380. doi:10.1016/j.jiph.2020.06.021
- [vii] National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D: Fact sheet for health professionals. Updated October 9, 2020.
- [viii] Legarth C, Grimm D, Wehland M, Bauer J, Krüger M. The impact of vitamin D in the treatment of essential hypertension. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(2):455. doi:10.3390/ijms19020455
- [ix] Geng C, Shaikh AS, Han W, Chen D, Guo Y, Jiang P. Vitamin D and depression: mechanisms, determination and application. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2019;28(4):689-694. doi:10.6133/apjcn.201912_28(4).0003
- [x] Shieh A, Chun RF, Ma C, et al. Effects of high-dose vitamin d2 versus d3 on total and free 25-hydroxyvitamin d and markers of calcium balance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016;101(8):3070-3078. doi:10.1210/jc.2016-1871
- [xi] Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. How much vitamin D do you need? Updated January 10, 2019.
- [xii] Yale University, Yale Medicine. Vitamin D myths ‘d’-bunked. Updated March 15, 2018.