New research around vitamin D shows that those deficient in the vitamin may have more far-reaching implications than just bone health. A deficiency may even be implicated in a COVID‐19 prognosis.1 And the importance of healthy levels continues to expand.
Deficiency of this vitamin has been widely known to cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Contraversely, those women with the highest intake have been able to reduce their fracture risk. Overall, supplementation has been shown to improve bone health in older subjects.2
But the effects of this vitamin are so much broader than bone health alone. According to researchers, vitamin D may reduce or eliminate chronic pain due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, headaches, and other types of pain.2
Moreover, the vitamin can help with hypertension, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and reduced fractured bones incidence.
Research has also indicated that deficiency is linked to colon cancer and, more recently, to breast cancer. And researchers have found that individuals who had higher levels had a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with low levels. A deficiency has also been associated with a higher risk of a heart attack in men. And a recent study in the journal JAMA Network Open reported about its affect on our newest pandemic stating, “In this single-center, retrospective cohort study, likely deficient vitamin D status was associated with increased COVID-19 risk.”3
More than half of the people in the United States, and the rest of the world, are deficient in vitamin D. “In order to maintain levels associated with the lowest risk of several types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, and all-cause mortality with minimal sunlight exposure, a person would require ingestion of 4000–6000 IUs of vitamin D daily, which would maintain serum vitamin D levels in the range of 20–40 ng/mL (50–100 nmol/L) and serum 25(OH)D levels in the range of 40–60 ng/mL (50–100 nmol/L).”4
There are basically two types of Vitamin D. The natural one is D3 (cholecalciferol), which is similar to what your body makes when exposed to sunshine. The synthetic one (also made by plants) is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). In your body, both need to be converted to a more active form. Here is the catch: Vitamin D3 is converted 500 percent faster than vitamin D2.
Therefore, Vitamin D3 is the preferred supplement.
Vitamin D is best known as the sunshine vitamin and its best source is from sunrays. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts like a hormone in your body to help you absorb calcium. Your body makes it when your skin is exposed to sunlight, although you can also get a little from fish and some fortified foods. However,, even with proper sun exposure and eating the right foods, one may become deficient in this important vitamin.
What level is optimal? Authors in the medical journal Nutrients report, “Although it is still debatable what level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is optimal, it is advisable to increase vitamin D intake and have sensible sunlight exposure to maintain serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L), and preferably at 40–60 ng/mL (100–150 nmol/L) to achieve the optimal overall health benefits of vitamin D. If tested, the optimal value that you’re looking for is 115-128 nmol/L (50-55 ng/ml).”4
Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit.
Vitamin D supplements are generally safe to take. But be sure you speak with your healthcare provider first.
1Munshi, Ruhul, et al. “Vitamin D insufficiency as a potential culprit in critical COVID‐19 patients.” Journal of medical virology (2020).
2Martens, Pieter-Jan, Conny Gysemans, and Annemieke Verstuyf. “Vitamin D’s Effect on Immune Function.” Nutrients12.5 (2020): 1248.
3Meltzer, David O., et al. “Association of vitamin D status and other clinical characteristics with COVID-19 test results.” JAMA network open 3.9 (2020): e2019722-e2019722.
4Charoenngam, Nipith, and Michael F. Holick. “Immunologic effects of vitamin D on human health and disease.” Nutrients12.7 (2020): 2097.