One new study suggests no evidence that taking vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of bone fractures in healthy older adults. However, this contradicts numerous other studies and expert authorities in osteoporosis and bone health.
This vital fat-soluble vitamin has a myriad of body functions. Technically a prohormone, vitamin D is made when the sun reacts with a. cholesterol-type substance in the skin – which is why it is called the sunshine vitamin. Some foods also contain vitamin D.
This essential vitamin maintains healthy bones and teeth and plays many vital roles, including regulating inflammation and immune function. It also has neuroprotective effects; it affects the production of proteins required for developing neurons (brain cells). Additionally, vitamin D helps protect nervous tissues from oxidative stress and ensures balanced calcium levels in our blood (and cells, including the nervous system).
Certain people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and there is irrefutable evidence
to support the significant benefits of supplementing vitamin D in these groups.
Several factors can affect the body's ability to get adequate vitamin D from sunlight alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, You may be less likely to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun to meet your needs if you:
Live in an area with high pollution (which provides a barrier between the skin and the sun).
Use of sunscreen – safe sun exposure and sunscreen are highly recommended in Australia.
Spend most of your time indoors
Cover your skin for cultural or other reasons
Have darker skin (this is because the higher melanin levels mean that your body creates less vitamin D).
- Are older – as skin thins, the skin becomes less efficient in making vitamin D. Hence, vitamin D production becomes less efficient.
Have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease)
Can't digest fat normally
The link between obesity and low vitamin D levels
According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 67 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese (equivalent to around 12.5 million people). Being overweight may also affect vitamin D status and be related to several chronic health problems.
The body needs certain enzymes to convert vitamin D into its active form; the enzyme levels between obese and non-obese individuals differ. So, obese people may need more vitamin D than normal-weight people. Also, vitamin D accumulates in excess fat tissues but is not readily available for use by the body when needed. Those who have had gastric bypass surgery since the upper part of the small intestine is removed, which is where vitamin D is absorbed.
Thus, a higher dose of vitamin D supplementation may be necessary to achieve a desirable blood level.
Getting adequate vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in two primary forms – D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol); D2 from plants and D3 from animals. D3 is the type that the body makes via the action of sunlight on the skin.
Research suggests that D3 is significantly more effective at raising and maintaining overall vitamin D levels than D2.
Vitamin D levels can be raised by:
Spending time in sunlight – but it is vital to practice safe sun
Enjoy fatty fish and seafood
Choose mushrooms more often
Include egg yolks in the diet
Eat fortified foods
Take a vitamin D supplement.
So, for many people, taking a vitamin D supplement may be the best way to ensure adequate intake. Safe supplementation of vitamin D should be based on the needs of the individual. Australians should be guided by a healthcare professional to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. safely. How? Via safe sun, diet and supplementation when required.