Surprising new research reveals that Vitamin D is not just for bone health. It plays a critical role in the health of the brain and nervous systems, and the cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as in pregnancy and child development. One recent study found that people who took Vitamin D supplements had a 7% lower risk of death than those who did not, and many ailments are now being linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is formed naturally in the skin by exposure to sunlight. But when a person does not get enough sun exposure, their body cannot make sufficient vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D Deficiency increasing?
We are experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, with resulting health problems, because so many people are now avoiding exposure to sunshine due to the risk of skin damage and other skin concerns caused from UV rays.
People living in places like Canada, where the sun is not strong enough from mid-September to mid-May to stimulate vitamin D production in the skin, are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D has a half-life of about two weeks. After mid-September, a rapid drop in vitamin D levels leaves most people susceptible to increased incidence and severity of colds, flus, and infections, and increased risk of degenerative diseases.
The right form of vitamin D for the human body
Only the natural form of vitamin D enhances human health. When buying a vitamin D supplement it is important to get vitamin D3 (also called cholecalciferol). This is the form made by your skin on a sunny day.
Some supplements contain vitamin D2 (also called ergocalci- ferol), a form synthetically derived from vegetables. Ergocal- ciferol does not normally occur in the human body and may actually impair vitamin D actions in the body (Cannell).
Natural Factors Vitamin D is in the preferred D3 form and is available in a 1,000 IU potency. Three delivery forms are available: tablet, softgel or liquid. The softgel contains organic flaxseed oil, which increases the bioavailability of vitamin D. The convenient liquid, which can be taken alone or added to smoothies, is in a base of organic olive oil. Olive oil is an excellent natural preservative and also enhances the bioavail- ability of vitamin D.
How much vitamin D is needed?
A person with fair skin with full body exposure to sunlight can produce up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 in just 20 minutes. New research shows that the medical profession has vastly underestimated the amount of vitamin D required to maintain good health. While Health Canada currently recommends a maximum dose of only 1,000 IU daily, experts now suggest adults take up to 5,000 IU daily in winter or whenever expo- sure to sunlight is limited. Published scientific research has confirmed that there is no risk of toxicity from vitamin D3 supplements in doses below 10,000 IU per day.
How Does Vitamin D Work?
Vitamin D is produced when sunlight converts cholesterol in your skin into a form of vitamin D3 called calciol. Then the liver hydroxylates calciol into a form called calcidiol (25-hydro- xyvitamin D3). The kidneys then hydroxylate calcidiol into the active form of vitamin D called calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy- vitamin D3).
Calcidiol, the inactive form of vitamin D3, is circulated and stored in the body. This is the form that should be measured during a blood test of vitamin D3 levels. Researchers now recommend that blood levels of calcidiol be maintained at 50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L, the level at which vitamin D actually has broader health benefits.
Virtually every cell in the human body has receptors for vitamin D3 because it is not just a vitamin, it is also a hor- mone. As a hormone, it regulates cellular production of important proteins and peptides. Vitamin D3 also affects the expression of many genes, including ones that are key factors in supporting optimal cell growth.
The many benefits of Vitamin D3
-Maintains bone, joint and muscle health
-Supports the brain and nervous system
-Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
-Supports the health of mother and child during pregnancy and lactation
-Strengthens the immune system, reducing the incidence and severity of bacterial infections
-Improves lung function, especially in former smokers
-Supports healthy cell growth
-Inhibits skin cell growth associated with psoriasis and other skin conditions
-Helps maintain adequate insulin levels for people with type II diabetes
The preferred D3 form of vitamin D!
Natural Factors Vitamin D3 1000IU Supports bone development, helps the absorption of calcium and supports nervous system health.
Vitamin D plays a dual role as both a vitamin and a hormone that stimulates the body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus are needed to keep bones strong. Without vitamin D even a diet adequate in calcium will not help as the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. People with low vitamin D levels tend to have soft, thin bones, predisposing them to fractures, especially hip fractures. Soft bones can also cause the nagging and unremitting bone pain that many older persons suffer from.
Vitamin D supplementation is important because it's hard to get enough during long, dark, northern winters. The elderly have more difficulty synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight, some medications interfere with vitamin D absorption and absorbing calcium which will strengthen bones and prevent fractures.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol from animal source) is the form found in fish oils and eggs, and is produced by sunlight on human skin. Natural Factors vitamin D3 is derived from sheep wool lanolin.
Since 2007, major research studies have shown that vitamin D does much more than prevent bone disease.
From strengthening immunity and reducing the risk for heart disease, to helping prevent multiple sclerosis, most people can benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
The newest research suggests that low levels of the "sunshine vitamin" may be part of the reason we get more colds and flu in winter. Increasing year-round vitamin D intake could be another natural way to ward off viral and bacterial infections.