Vitamin D3 101: A Beginners Guide
Vitamin D3 is a special vitamin because unlike the others, it is made in the body after being exposed to UV light. This makes it more of a hormone than a vitamin and means it is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. However, many factors affect the sun’s synthesis of vitamin D and it is recommended to take as a supplement over all seasons.
A bit of food science: Vitamin D is split into two calciferols: ergocalciferol which is vitamin D2 and cholecalciferol which is vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is metabolically cleared from the body faster than D3 so not as much of D2 is absorbed by the body. Taking a supplement of D3 means it can be absorbed by the gut straight away without the need of sunlight exposure.
Vitamin D3 helps to absorb and utilise calcium and phosphorous in the gut, cells, bones and teeth. Therefore, deficiency can lead to musculoskeletal problems. Some people often think they have a calcium deficiency, but it is actually Vitamin D they are low in. It also helps with magnesium absorption, depression and anxiety, blood clotting, muscle strength, immunity, cell processes, and hormone actions.
Some vulnerable to Vitamin D3 deficiency are the elderly, pregnant/lactating women, housebound and those of darker skin colour.
Vitamin D can be found in some foods, mainly of animal origin such as milk, oily fish and fish liver (cod liver oils actually count as a vitamin D supplement), egg yolks and fortified breads and cereals. From this you can guess that vegetarians/vegans who exclude these foods may also be at risk of deficiency.
However, these foods offer very little vitamin D3 and it still needs to be converted into its active form by sunlight, so a supplement is recommended by health professionals and by the UK government. Recommended intake of Vitamin D3 is 10mcg a day (too much can be toxic).
So, Vitamin D3 is the one that can really help our body particularly in keeping our calcium levels in the bones and teeth healthy. It’s a supplement beneficial in taking all year round to ensure adequate levels, sun or no sun!