Supplementing with vitamin D can help maintain strong bones, but they may also offer other health benefits
The majority of us don’t give much thought to obtaining vitamin D when the weather is warm and the sun is out. However, as winter draws near, bringing with it cloudy days and long nights, you might be wondering about the potential benefits of taking a vitamin D supplement and if it would be helpful.
Getting some sunshine is the best way to obtain vitamin D during the summer. UVB photons, with their shorter wavelength, interact with 7-dehydrocholesterol, a kind of cholesterol found in the skin, to transform it into vitamin D.
Our ability to produce vitamin D decreases throughout the winter because it is reliant on UVB rays. The location of your home affects how much vitamin D you produce as well; individuals who live closer to the equator produce more vitamin D than those who live closer to the poles.
In the UK, vitamin D insufficiency is an issue throughout the winter. This is because of its northern location, cloudy weather, and little outdoor time.
In the UK, a research including over 440,000 individuals revealed that 18% of them experienced vitamin D deficiency throughout the winter. According to the results, there was a greater prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in specific ethnic groups. Specifically, 57% of Asian participants and 38% of Black individuals showed low levels of vitamin D. This is so because a person’s skin’s melanin concentration controls their body’s capacity to convert UVB rays into vitamin D.
The UK’s Science Advisory Council on Nutrition published guidelines for the recommended daily intake of vitamin D in 2016 due to the high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in the country and its critical role in maintaining good health.
It is advised that individuals strive to obtain ten micrograms, or 400 international units, of vitamin D daily. People could avoid serious deficiencies by doing this. You can either take a supplement or consume specific foods high in vitamin D, such wild salmon, herring, and mackerel, which are fatty fish. For instance, a 100 gramme portion of fresh herring would provide about five micrograms of vitamin D.
The health of your bones is the obvious advantage of taking a vitamin D pill. Actually, rickets, a disease that causes weak, bending bones, is what led to the discovery of vitamin D over a century ago.
Even while rickets isn’t particularly common in the UK these days, children who don’t get enough vitamin D may still get it. Adults with low vitamin D levels may have bone discomfort, tenderness, and weakness in their muscles. They may also be at a higher risk of developing osteomalacia, sometimes known as “soft bone disease,” which results in weakening or softening of the bones.
Because of the way that vitamin D interacts with calcium and phosphate, deficiency in the vitamin can have a significant impact on bone health. These two minerals aid in maintaining the health of our bones, but in order to do so, they need vitamin D.
Other health benefits
Supplementing with vitamin D may boost human health in ways beyond its effects on the skeleton, according to a growing body of studies.
For instance, studies indicate a connection between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of contracting COVID, the flu, and the common cold.
Similar to this, a number of research, including mine, have shown that vitamin D strengthens protection against microorganisms like the bacteria that causes tuberculosis in cell models. This suggests that vitamin D may be able to stop some kinds of illnesses.
Additionally, vitamin D has the ability to reduce inflammatory immune responses, which may offer protection against autoimmune conditions including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2022 study that included over 25,000 adults over 50 discovered that taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 2,000 IU (50 mcg) was linked to an 18% decreased risk of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Supplemental vitamin D may also be associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. A significant Australian study including over 21,000 participants between the ages of 60 and 84 discovered that those who took a daily vitamin D supplement of 2,000 IU had a decreased chance of experiencing a major cardiovascular event (heart attack or stroke) than those who did not take the supplement.
The reason vitamin D may be beneficial to various other aspects of our health is currently unknown. It’s also important to remember that a very small percentage of participants in many of these experiments were in fact vitamin D deficient. Even if it’s possible that those who lack vitamin D might benefit from the benefits on their health even more, it will be crucial for future research to look into these aspects.
It’s too soon to tell if vitamin D pills are good for your overall health, but they are obviously good for your bones. If you’re over 65, have darker skin, or spend a lot of time indoors, you may want to consider taking a supplement during the winter months as these characteristics may raise your risk of developing a vitamin D deficit.
The study also suggests that we should reconsider the recommendations about vitamin D supplements. Although 400 IU of vitamin D is the recommended daily intake in the UK, numerous studies have indicated that 2,000 IU of vitamin D is linked to health benefits.