Vitamin D3 has been a hot topic for that past few years for various reasons. But there are many misconceptions swirling around. Let's explore some fact from fiction.
Everyone can get enough vitamin D3 through sunlight exposure. UNTRUE
Although our body can produce vitamin D when UV rays hit the skin, conditions need to be near perfect for this to happen. Many children, like adults, do not get enough time in the sun during certain crucial times of the year to make and maintain adequate 25(OH)D levels. 25(OH) D is the serum form of D that is tested in the bloodstream. In addition to lack of time in the sun, it's also difficult to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight due to sunscreens, latitude, time of year, color of skin, and as we age.
We can get plenty of vitamin D3 through our foods alone. INCORRECT
There are not many naturally occurring dietary sources of vitamin D, and we would have to consume a variety of these to get enough from our foods. Most people will not consume enough of these foods to obtain adequate vitamin D levels in the body. Vitamin D can be found in the flesh of fatty fish like salmon (approximately 500 IU (12.5 mcg) in 3 oz), mackerel, and tuna. It also is in fish liver oils as the D3 form. Some mushrooms provide the D2 form, which still needs to be converted to the D3 form. Most dietary vitamin D comes from fortified foods such as orange juice, non-dairy beverages, egg yolks (from vitamin D supplemented hens), and in some dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese). Therefore, many look to supplemental vitamin D3 as an excellent addition to maintain adequate D levels.
All forms of vitamin D work the same. NO
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are the two vitamin Ds referred to in research and the two found in both food and supplemental forms. Many people don’t know that research has seen a significant difference in the nutritional value and absorption of the D2 form which is derived from plants (mostly mushrooms) and the D3 form, derived from animal products. The D2 form still needs to be converted by the body in the liver to the most bioavailable D3 form, and some issues can arise with the conversion process. As people age, they less efficiently synthesize vitamin D. Also, if one has certain liver issues, it may hinder conversion to the more bioavailable form of D3.
Vitamin D3 is only important for bone health. FALSE
Vitamin D3 works synergistically with other vitamins and minerals to assist in the bone building process; however, it also continues to be seen in an immense amount of research with promoting healthy growth and development, supporting muscle health, assisting with a healthy immune and cardiovascular system, and aiding in a healthier mood.
The more vitamin D3 you take the better. NOT SO
Recommendations for vitamin D3 intake vary widely across organizations. There are patients with specific issues who might need a prescription for high levels of vitamin D3, but this is not the case for many. The Institutes of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board recommended daily allowances (RDAs) are the official recommendations here in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 400 IU (10 mcg) / day of vitamin D3 for infants and 600 IU (15 mcg) / day for children over 1 year old, and the IOM recommends 600-800 IU (15-20 mcg) / day for adults.
The Vitamin D Council, Endocrine Society, and many physicians often disagree with the IOM. They feel that the IOM recommendations are too low, and researchers are seeking governments to increase and update current vitamin D recommendations. The IOM Food and Nutrition Board states adult sufficiency of vitamin D levels is 20+ ng / mL, the Endocrine Society 30-100 ng / mL, and the Vitamin D Council 40-80 ng / mL. More research is pointing toward the Vitamin D Council recommendations. Toxicity levels also vary from organization to organization. Some state that levels of 100+ ng / mL are when toxicity begins.
Many people do NOT have sufficient D levels after summer ends. TRUE
The amount necessary to increase and maintain D levels is different for everyone and varies throughout the seasons. If your level is very low, then you may be recommended by a practitioner to take anywhere from 4-10,000 IU (10-250mcg) / day for 3 or more months until levels increase into the adequate range. Make sure to have your levels tested two or more times a year by a practitioner or use an in-home test kit. There are currently Vitamin D Test Kits available to purchase in various stores and online at carlsonlabs.com . This in-home kit allows us to take the sample ourselves, mail it in, and register to receive the results. It's recommended we test our levels at least twice a year.