Vitamin D3 sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” provides many benefits to the body. It helps keep your bones strong and aids the absorption of phosphorus and calcium. Vitamin D3 is beneficial to heart health, weight loss, and even mood. Getting enough vitamin D3 is essential for proper growth and development of teeth and bones and improved resistance against diseases.
Vitamin D3 helps prevent and treat high blood pressure. Also, if you’re trying to reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart attacks, vitamin D3 might be exactly what you need. You can get enough vitamin D3 from a wide variety of foods as well as supplements. Also, the body makes vitamin D3 if exposed to sunlight.
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ offers many health benefits. Vitamin D3 helps strengthen muscles and bones, promotes heart health, helps lose weight, and improves mood, and boosts immunity.
Vitamin D3 helps strengthen both bones and muscles. It improves calcium absorption in the small intestines. When the body lacks adequate vitamin D3 to absorb calcium, it will get calcium from the bones. This makes your bones weak and can cause osteoporosis and fractures. Studies show vitamin D3 can help improve muscle strength and reduce fractures. [vi]
Studies show that vitamin D3 might help protect against pneumonia and acute respiratory infections. [vii] During the coronavirus pandemic, some researchers suggested that lack of vitamin D might increase the risks of severe illness and infection. Nevertheless, more work should be done to say whether vitamin D3 plays any role in preventing and fighting against covid-19.[viii]
A study involving postmenopausal women taking vitamin D3 supplements for weight loss intervention investigated whether vitamin D3 played a role in weight loss. The results showed that women who had enough vitamin D3 levels saw a significant reduction in their waist, lost extra body fat, and ultimately lost more weight.[ix] However, some studies have shown there is no relationship between vitamin D3 and weight loss.[x]
Vitamin D3 Deficiency
Studies show more than one billion people around the world have a vitamin D3 deficiency.[i] Health conditions associated with vitamin D3 deficiency include:
Getting Sick Often
One of the most critical roles that vitamin D3 plays is making sure your immune system remains strong and is able to fight off bacteria and viruses that cause illness. The vitamin interacts directly with cells responsible for fighting off infections.[ii] If you become sick often, particularly with flu or colds, low vitamin D3 levels might be the reason.
Tiredness And Fatigue
There are many things that can make you feel tired, and vitamin D deficiency might be among them. Research shows deficient vitamin D3 levels could cause fatigue, which has a negative effect on your life. Taking vitamin D3 supplements might help enhance energy levels.[iii]
Back And Bone Pain
Vitamin D3 plays a significant role in maintaining bone health. First, it helps improve calcium absorption in the body. Lower back pain and bone pain might be a symptom of insufficient Vitamin D3 Levels. Studies have found a relationship between chronic lower back pain and vitamin D3 deficiency. [iv]
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of vitamin D3 deficiency. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency, especially among old adults. Overall, a depressed mood is associated with low levels of vitamin D3. Studies have found that taking supplements helps improve mood.[v]
Possible Side Effects
At normal doses, vitamin D3 doesn’t have any side effects. But if you experience any unusual effects, contact a doctor immediately. For instance, if you take high doses of vitamin D3, it could cause excessive calcium absorption, which could result in hypercalcemia, which might interfere with the function of the heart and brain, and eventually cause kidney stones. Consult a health provider if you experience any of the following health problems while taking vitamin D3.
Signs of vitamin D3 toxicity:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Loss of appetite
- Pain mood changes
- Muscle weakness
Very high doses of vitamin D3 can cause:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Kidney failure
Toxicity issues are often caused by taking lots of vitamin D3 supplements. This is because it’s almost impossible to take too much vitamin D3 from foods, and the skin limits the amount of vitamin D3 your body can make from exposure to sunlight.
Before you start using vitamin D supplements, consult your doctor and ask them to conduct a blood test to check your vitamin D3 levels. This is the only way you can be sure the dosage you’re taking is safe and enough for your needs.
Dosage And Preparation
Unless you live in a region with enough sunlight, getting the recommended dose of vitamin D from the sun and food might be difficult. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D3 is 600 IU and 800 IU for people up to 70 years old and over 70 years, respectively.
The maximum daily intake for most of the age groups is capped at 4,000 IU. Ask your doctor to carry out a blood test to know whether you need more vitamin D.[xi] This is very important, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with vitamin D3 deficiency.
Ways To Get Your Vitamin D3
As mentioned earlier, vitamin D3 is also called a sunlight vitamin. This is because sunlight is one of the ways through which you can get sufficient vitamin D3. However, you can still get vitamin D3 from different food sources as well as supplements. We recommend that you get your vitamin D3 recommended daily intake from foods because it also gives you more benefits, unlike vitamin D supplements, which is only vitamin D3.
Food Rich in Vitamin D3
- Tuna – 40 IU per 3 ounces for 5% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Trout – 645 IU per 3 ounces for 81% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Sardines – 46 IU per 2 fish for 6% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Milk – 120 IU per cup for 15% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Mackerel – 360 IU per half fillet for 45% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Halibut – 384 IU per fillet for 48% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Fresh salmon – 570 IU per 3 ounces for 71% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Egg yolks – 44 IU per yolk for 6% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Cod liver oil – 1,360 IU per tbsp. for 170% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Cheese – 12 IU per ounce for 2% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Cereal – 80 IU per serving for 10% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Butter – 9 IU per tbsp. for 1% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Beef liver – 42 IU per 3 ounces for 5% of your vitamin D3 RDA
On the other hand, vegetarians can only choose from a few of these options. So, if you’re a vegan, cereal might be the only available option. This means you’ll have to find alternative ways to get enough vitamin D3, and this is where supplementation comes in. Nevertheless, you can add a few sources of vitamin D2 to your daily diet.
- Mushrooms – 4 IU per ½ cup for 1% of your vitamin D3 RDA
- Milk, soy, oat, and almond – 100 – 144 IU per one cup for 13% -18% of your vitamin D3 RDA
Supplements are another way to get sufficient vitamin D3. Research shows vitamin D3 supplements are just as effective as food sources and sunlight. [xii]
However, speak to your doctor before you start taking vitamin D supplements to determine whether the supplements will help you and the most suitable dosage. Once you’ve found out whether supplements are right for you and the right dosage, you can then check through the available brands to choose a high-quality supplement.
Make sure the supplement brand you choose is regulated by a trusted brand like the US Pharmacopeia Convention.
What is the main benefit of vitamin D3?
What food is high in vitamin D3?
What is the main difference between vitamin D2 and D3?
Is it okay to take vitamin D3 every day?
Does vitamin D3 boost energy?
When should I take vitamin D3 supplements?
- [i] Sahota O. Understanding vitamin D deficiency. Age Ageing. 2014;43(5):589-591. doi:10.1093/ageing/afu104
- [ii] Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. How much vitamin D do you need? Updated January 10, 2019.
- [iii] 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
- [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] 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
- [vi] 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
- [vii] 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
- [viii] 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
- [ix] Mason C, Xiao L, Imayama I, et al. Vitamin D3 supplementation during weight loss: a double-blind randomized controlled trial [published correction appears in Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;100(4):1213]. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(5):1015-1025. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.073734
- [x] National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D: Fact sheet for health professionals. Updated October 9, 2020.
- [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.