We always hear that vitamin D is important to take.
But why is that? What is vitamin D3? Is that something different?
Which one should I be taking?
What does it really do?
Well, today we are going to take a look at what vitamin D3 is and why it may be an important vitamin for you.
WHAT IS A D VITAMIN AN WHY IS D3 SO IMPORTANT?
There are 2 types of D vitamins, D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is often just referred to as vitamin D and is much cheaper to produce and is used to fortify many of our foods such as cereals and milk. Its primary source is plants such as wild mushrooms.
Vitamin D3 is a little bit pricier and usually is derived from fish oils, livers, and egg yolks. Your body also naturally produces vitamin D3 when you expose your skin to sunlight.
Cholecalciferol is a naturally occurring form of this vitamin. Vitamin D has properties of both a hormone and a vitamin.
Which vitamin D is better? Well, vitamin D3 has been shown to be twice as potent as compared to vitamin D2 when administered to elderly women. This was seen during a study done by the National Institutes of Health.
Most scientific advisory boards and authors believe that D3 is the preferred form for supplementation. D2, ergocalciferol, would be selected if there is liver failure or a severe malabsorption syndrome.
WHAT DOES VITAMIN D3 DO?
Vitamin D3 increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium and promote bone health. It’s main function is to maintain normal levels of phosphorus and calcium in the blood. This process is essential in preventing conditions such as osteoporosis (a disease that thins and weakens the bones) and osteomalacia (a softening of the bones often caused by a vitamin D deficiency).
Vitamin D3 has also been prescribed to help in the treatment of hypoparathyroidism (decreased parathyroid hormone), hypophosphatemia (low phosphorus in the blood), and refractory rickets (soften of growing bones in children due to vitamin D deficiency).
D3 is also very important for immune system health and other systemic functions of the body.
There are very strong associations between levels of D in blood and the presence of many infections. D status is generally important for any condition that involves the immune system.
In fact, deficiencies of vitamin D have been linked to cancer, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other maladies.
Those with deficiencies are also at a higher risk of forming autoimmune disorders.
At least 70% of Americans are D-deficient sadly. 88% of the global population is deficient. Post-menopausal women are especially prone to D-deficiency; the prevalence of deficiency is about 87%.
Vitamin D eventually becomes active in serum and then binds to Vitamin D receptors; these are a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Active Vitamin D directly produces vast skeletal and extra-skeletal benefits.
There are many randomized, controlled trials demonstrating the benefits of D3 supplementation for a variety of problems.
For the treatment of atopic dermatitis, Vitamin D has shown great benefit.
COPD has also shown benefits from treatment with Vitamin D3. Supplementation of D3 also significantly reduces the rate of exacerbations of asthma and therefore reduces emergency room visits and also corticosteroid utilization.
D3 helps dramatically with the symptoms and problems associated with diabetes as well.
For mental health, D3 supplementation is also very helpful with chronic pain, anxiety, depression and antioxidant support. Depression has a lot of research supporting the use of D3 supplementation.
The list of extra-skeletal benefits of this hormone-like vitamin goes on and on.
SHOULD YOU START TAKING VITAMIN D3?
The short answer is likely ‘yes’. Of course, you should consult your treating physician first.
As you get older your ability to absorb calcium lessens and your bones are likely to become less dense and more fragile.
A lot of our foods are fortified to supplement our diets and help our bodies.
However, this fortification is with the less active form of D and would still require sunlight for conversion to the active form.
Supplements of D3 skip that step and provide the active form immediately.
Most people are D-deficient and supplementation is likely needed. There is a clear need for exogenous supplementation in the country and world.
If you are not sure if you should start taking Vitamin D3 supplements, you should talk to your doctor for advice catered directly to you and your body’s specific needs.
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