Are you getting enough Vitamin D? It’s a very important nutrient that’s responsible for things like the health of the immune system, the building of muscle, and the repairing of your nerves, as well as a number of other things. Even so, you might be surprised to know that it’s not uncommon for people to be deficient in vitamin D. This is especially true for people that live farther away from the equator; those who are outside of about 37 degrees north or south of the equator are at risk for not getting enough, given that sunlight helps the body generate vitamin D.
If you live in the US, it’s safe to assume that if you were to connect a line between San Francisco, St. Louis, and Richmond, VA, and you live north of that line, then you’re not getting enough sunlight. Because of this fact, doctors typically encourage people to take supplements in order to make up for the shortage. On average, a person needs a minimum of 600 IU per day.
There’s more than one type of vitamin D though. When it comes to getting enough, there is a growing consensus that D3, one form of vitamin D, is much more absorbed by the body compared to D2. The reason for this belief comes primarily from a research study that surveyed the health of white and South Asian women. In this study, the vitals of the aforementioned women between the ages of 20 and 64 were studied over a period of three months during the winter. This trial took place in the United Kingdom and was conducted during the winter in order to minimize the influence of sunlight.
Essentially, there were three groups of women. One group received food that had been fortified with vitamin D2, one group received food fortified with D3, and the final group simply received regular meals. Naturally, the women’s blood levels of vitamin D were taken at the start of the study and throughout until its conclusion.
In the end, the primary conclusion revealed that the blood levels of the women who ate food fortified with vitamin D3 experienced the largest increase of vitamin D. In fact, according to the study’s primary author, Laura Tripkovic, when it comes to increasing the levels of vitamin D in the body, D3 is twice as effective as D2. What does this mean? Essentially, the food sources that give us vitamin D3, a group which includes animal products such as fish, eggs, and fortified milk, are a better method of boosting your vitamin D levels than the food sources providing us with D2, which includes mushrooms, and enriched bread. As one might expect, the same can be said for the supplemental varieties as well; supplements providing D3 are generally superior to those that contain D2.
This is something that will no doubt change what kinds of supplements are readily available in drugstores, as discussions and sales center more around D3 supplements. Still, if one is seeking to augment their vitamin D intake, they still have options in natural sunlight, as well as the aforementioned dietary sources. Just keep in mind that skin damage can occur from too much careless sun exposure, and therefore, it’s important to regulate exposure carefully.Related: Symptoms and Risk Factors of Vitamin D Deficiency
While it may make you uncomfortable to learn there’s a good chance you’re falling short on your vitamin D intake, don’t worry; typically speaking, the signs and symptoms of such a deficiency are rather apparent, and there are some groups who are more at risk than others. Knowing this information can help you assess your risk and adjust your dietary and lifestyle habits accordingly.