Health Experts Identify 8 Circumstances in Which a Vitamin D Supplement May Be Needed
How handy is it to receive one of your recommended daily vitamins from the sun? Vitamin D, sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” is easily obtained by simply soaking up those rays of sunshine, unlike other vitamins that are usually gained through diet.
“Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, along with other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin K,” says Erin Stokes, N.D. “In addition, vitamin D supports healthy immune function, which is top of mind during the winter months. Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can also contribute to an overall sense of well-being.”
But in reality, as we all know, it’s much harder than it looks to obtain enough of that healthy sunshine. How much vitamin D you really get during the day depends on a number of factors, including the environment, the time of year, circumstances (such your risk of developing skin cancer), and even where you live. Therefore, how can one determine whether they are getting enough vitamin D and when would it be prudent to take a supplement?
Variables Affecting Vitamin D Levels
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that aids in the gut’s absorption of calcium and keeps your bones strong and healthy. Obtaining enough vitamin D can also aid in the body’s reduction of inflammation.
However, according to a 2022 paper published in Frontiers in Nutrition, between 2.6 and 22% of Americans are deficient. Furthermore, about 41% of people don’t meet the recommended levels of vitamin D, which means that their numbers aren’t low enough. Many of us do not receive enough vitamin D from the sun on a daily basis.
We either spend less time outside or are more conscious of the risks associated with prolonged sun exposure. Thus, Gillean Barkyoumb, M.S., RDN, explains, “We try to stay in the shade, wear hats, and apply sunscreen.” Adult vitamin deficiencies can easily go unnoticed, despite their obvious indications and symptoms, which include weariness, bone discomfort, muscular soreness, and mood swings. A vitamin D supplement should be taken into consideration by anyone over 65, with dark complexion, or confined to their home and unable to get their recommended daily intake of vitamin D from the sun.
Deficient levels might also result from other things like the surroundings or even the season.
“Our skin can synthesize vitamin D3 via UVB sunlight exposure, but various factors like skin melanin content, air pollution, weather variations, sunscreen use and geographic location, among others, can affect how much we produce,” says Huma Chaudhry RD, LDN.
Foods high in vitamin D include milk, fortified cereals, fatty fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. It can be challenging for many people to consume adequate vitamin D throughout the week because this specific food list is so small. “It might be challenging to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone because the majority of us do not consume big quantities of these foods.”
There are eight conditions that could make vitamin D deficiency more likely
Bone mass and density are both added to and lost during aging. A person’s bone density will rise before the age of 25 and then level off between the ages of 25 and 50. However, bone resorption (also known as breakdown) accelerates beyond age 50, so older people need to ensure they get enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones.
Inadequate consumption of these nutrients may lead to skeletal consequences, including decreased calcium absorption, which raises the risk of falls and accidents. Older adults are less likely to acquire the necessary amount of sun exposure, which affects their ability to produce and metabolize vitamin D. In this instance, elderly persons may benefit from low-dose vitamin D supplementation (around 25 micrograms per day), according to research published in Endocrine in 2022.
2.Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
As you age, your body continually breaks down and rebuilds new bones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoporosis is a condition where your bones are too brittle and weak, increasing your risk of fractures. If your body is unable to keep up with the development of new bone, you run the higher risk of developing osteoporosis. The loss of bone mineral density, or osteopenia, weakens bones but to a lesser extent than osteoporosis.
“Vitamin D is popular for supporting our bone health and can be used to help treat bone conditions like osteoporosis and osteopenia,” says Chaudhry. “It plays a crucial role in keeping a homeostatic balance of important structural minerals, calcium and phosphorus.”
3. Illnesses of the Nervous System
According to a review published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy in 2023, vitamin D functions in the body as a neurosteroid, which is necessary for brain development and function. There is a link between low vitamin D levels and a higher chance of neurological conditions such multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy.
4. Disorders of Malabsorption
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases points out that severe vitamin D insufficiency can also be a consequence of some malabsorption illnesses, including but not limited to cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Certain nutrients are more difficult to digest and absorb under certain circumstances. Because of this, individuals with malabsorption diseases might need to take supplements in order to obtain enough vitamin D and avoid developing other conditions linked to deficiencies.
5.Liver and Kidney Conditions
“It can result in a deficiency because kidney and liver disease reduce the enzymes needed to convert vitamin D into a form the body can use,” adds Barkyoumb.
Low levels of serum vitamin D have been associated in research with the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). According to a 2021 meta-analysis that was published in Frontiers of Pharmacology, vitamin D supplementation may be a useful tactic for those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Depressive and other mood disorders have been found to exhibit more symptoms in people with low vitamin D levels.A person’s diet can often be supplemented with foods high in vitamin D, time spent in nature, and supplements for mental health issues.
“Fetal vitamin D demands make it crucial for pregnant women to take in enough vitamin D,” says Jamie Adams, M.S., RD, LDN. “Repeated clinical research has demonstrated how vitamin D intake can improve fetal growth and development but also better health outcomes for moms. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in fetal development, bone health and immune function. Pregnant women often have increased demands for vitamin D to support the growing fetus and maintain their own health.”
According to a paper published in Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2020, using vitamin D supplements may be a good idea while pregnant. In addition to lowering the chance of certain illnesses like small-for-gestational-age birth, preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and gestational diabetes, it can enhance fetal growth.
Even though a child’s bones are growing more quickly at an early age, rickets, a severe vitamin D shortage, can still cause sickness, according to the NIH. Soft and feeble bones may result from a child’s inadequate dietary intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.