Vitamin D is more than just a vitamin. It literally functions as a steroid hormone inthe body.If you get little sun throughout the year, stay inside a lot or use sunscreen, thenVitamin D supplementation is something to consider.A deficiency is extremely common in western countries and may have disastrousconsequences over the long term.Here are 8 reasons to get your Vitamin D levels checked and start supplementing ifneeded.1. It’s Hard to Get Enough From The DietWhen rays from the sun land on the skin, Vitamin D3 is produced from cholesterol.Historically, this used to be the main source of Vitamin D for humans.Today, however… as people use more and more sunscreen and avoid the sun, orlive where there literally IS no useful sun, a deficiency is extremely common .There are two main forms of dietary Vitamin D:8 Reasons to Optimize YourVitamin D Levels
Vitamin D3 – Cholecalciferol – the animal form.Vitamin D2 – Ergocalciferol – the plant form.The animal form (D3) increases blood levels much more effectively than D2.Unfortunately, there is only one decent source of D3 in the diet. A tablespoon ofcod fish liver oil supplies 1350 IU, about double the RDA.Other half-decent sources include fatty fish and foods that have Vitamin D added(such as fortified milk) but you would have to eat a lot of these foods to cover yourneeds.Of course, if you have the option (I don’t… live in Iceland) then getting some moresun while making sure to never, ever burn is probably the healthiest and mostnatural choice.2. May Reduce Risk of DeathTwo separate meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials have revealed thatsupplementing with Vitamin D may reduce total mortality by about 6-7%.This basically means that if you’re getting enough Vitamin D from sun or diet, thenyou’re slightly less likely to die over a certain period of time.3. May Reduce Cancer of All CausesThere are many different kinds of cancer, which is characterized by uncontrolledgrowth of cells in the body.Vitamin D is a steroid hormone which can act as a transcription factor, travellinginto the nuclei of cells to turn genes on or off. There is a fair amount of evidence tosuggest that a deficiency is associated with increased risk of several types ofcancer.In a 4 year randomized controlled trial in 1179 healthy post-menopausal women,1100IU of Vitamin D3 (along with calcium) reduced risk of developing cancer ofall causes by 60%.
A pretty significant finding, given that cancer is one of the nastiest and mostcommon causes of death. We’ll need some more clinical trials to confirm thisthough.However, there are also multiple epidemiological studies (observational…don’tprove anything) that show an inverse relationship for Vitamin D levels andcancer.4. Cardiovascular DiseaseCardiovascular disease is the #1 killer worldwide… the most common cause ofpremature death.Several epidemiological studies (again, don’t prove anything) suggest that lowVitamin D levels may lead to elevated risk factors and increased risk of heartattacks but controlled trials have so far been inconclusive.5. Reduces Incidence of Type I Diabetes in ChildrenType I diabetes is an autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system attackingthe insulin-generating beta cells of the pancreas.This disease is usually diagnosed at a young age and used to be fatal before thediscovery of insulin.A cohort of 10.921 infants, followed since the day of birth, revealed that those whosupplemented with 2.000 IU per day of Vitamin D had a 78% lower risk ofdeveloping Type I Diabetes.A meta-analysis of epidemiological studies has confirmed this finding, showing areduction in risk of 39% and the potential for a dose-response relationship.Additionally, there’s a lot of data linking Vitamin D supplementation to a reducedrisk of type II diabetes in adults.6. Reduces Falls and Fractures in The ElderlyThe elderly are at particularly high risk of deficiency, partly because they don’t getas much sun.
In randomized controlled trials of elderly individuals, supplementing with VitaminD has lowered risk of both falls and fractures. The dose required is 800IU (atleast) – 400IU had no effect.7. May be Protective Against Flu And Asthma AttacksIn schoolchildren, a randomized controlled trial revealed that supplementing withVitamin D reduced risk of Influenza A infection by 42% and also significantlyreduced the occurrence of asthma attacks.Low blood levels of Vitamin D do appear to be associated with increasedrespiratory infections, suggesting that it has an important role to play in immunedefense.8. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) May be Too LowMany experts believe that the RDA is way too low, especially for people who aren’texposed to the sun a lot.Previously, Vitamin D was mainly believed to cause rickets in children. Today,Vitamin D status has now been implicated in a host of other diseases, some ofwhich kill millions of people every year.It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all of them, but it seems prettystraightforward that optimizing your Vitamin D levels can help you live a longerand healthier life.Be aware that in most of the studies above, the dosages used were quite small. It isa definite possibility that the results would be much stronger using higher doses.Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked!If you don’t get a lot of sun and think you might be deficient, then you need to see adoctor and have your levels of 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D measured (the storage formof the vitamin).According to the Vitamin D council, a blood level of 50-80 ng/ml (125-200 nmol/L)is your best bet for optimal health and disease prevention.
If you’re deficient and increasing sun exposure is not an option, then you shouldstart supplementing with Vitamin D3. Choose a brand that has oil-filled caps,because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin.The required dosage depends on the individual and needs to be optimized overtime. A risk of toxicity is extremely low. You’d need to take a ridiculous amount ofthe Vitamin for extended periods of time for that to happen.If you do decide to get your Vitamin D from the sun, then just make sure to never,ever burn.