Vitamin D is a family of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins D1, D2, and D3. It is essential for regulating the absorption of minerals Calcium and Phosphorus and maintaining normal immune function.

When your body is exposed to direct sunlight, it naturally produces vitamin D and you can also get it from dietary sources. Despite this – particularly after years of lockdown – many of us are deficient in this essential vitamin. If you suffer with tiredness, acne, aches – or if you’re a religious Factor 50 user, you might be one of them.

In this “Two Minutes On”, we take a quick look at the science-backed benefits associated with vitamin D and how you can get more of it in your life.

Healthy Bones as we Age

Supplementing with vitamin D & calcium has been shown to increase bone density – particularly amongst post-menopausal women and men of a similar age1. Maintaining Vitamin D levels also contributes to a reduced risk of osteoporosis as we age, and has been linked with a reduced risk of fractures (albeit with further work needed in this area).

Protecting against disease

Vitamin D has been linked with protection against a variety of diseases, including:

  • Heart disease – Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.2
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) – a recent large scale review linked increased risk of MS with low levels of vitamin D.3
  • Severe COVID symptoms – it seems that vitamin D may reduce the severity of symptoms of COVID and Flu, although the results are not consistent.4,5

Preventing & fighting acne

A link between Vitamin D levels and acne is emerging – with studies showing that acne sufferers with low Vitamin D levels suffer worse symptoms6. Vitamin D’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are believed to help reduce acne.

Moderating mood & reduce depression

A recent study7 of over 7,500 people showed that Vitamin D supplementation can reduce negative emotions, concluding that Vitamin D may be a valuable tool to help those with depressive disorders & anxiety.

Support healthy weight loss?

While it’s not clear that increasing Vitamin D causes you to lose weight, researchers have found a clear link between weight & vitamin d levels. For example, in one high-quality study, those who took Vitamin D lost more weight than others on the same diet8. It has been hypothesised that Vitamin D has an appetite suppressing effect9.

Improve athletic performance

As well as supporting your bones & muscles, Vitamin D seems to play a further role in improving exercise abilities. A recent study10 built on previous research to show that high Vitamin D levels are linked with improved VO2 max (the total capacity to absorb & transport oxygen around your body) which translates to an ability to exercise harder for longer.

Putting it into Practice

Vitamin D clearly plays an important role in a wide range of areas of health – which is why it is considered an essential vitamin. It’s important, as always, to recognise that no nutrient alone is the secret to health. Instead, finding ways to consume a variety of complex, nutrient rich foods which contain these nutrients is the path to take.

As a fat-soluble vitamin, there is such a thing as too much Vitamin D, so be aware that there is a maximum level. Don’t consume more than 100mg of Vitamin D per day – before you get too concerned, most supplements will be 10mg or less.

To increase your Vitamin D levels, you have two options:

  1. Go outside more. We make Vitamin D from the sun – but make sure you don’t skimp on the suncream – no levels of vitamin D are worth damaging your skin for (or worse).
  2. Consume more Vitamin D rich foods. These include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring & mackerel), eggs and red meat. What about mushrooms, I hear you cry! If you’re eating something for the Vitamin D, the D3 form is much more effective at increasing Vitamin D levels than D2.11 For this reason, if you’re eating something (or taking something) for the Vitamin D, we recommend ensuring its a source of D3 – mushrooms are not.  You can get all of your Vitamin D needs in your daily plantshake – and it’s in the Vitamin D3 form derived from algae, so it’s vegan friendly too. To further enhance the absorption of Vitamin D, have a small source of fat alongside your plantshake. 

Making sure you get enough Vitamin D can help improve your skin, increase bone density and even boost your athletic ability – and your daily plantshake gives you all you need and more.

References

  1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
  2. Saponaro, F., Marcocci, C., & Zucchi, R. (2019). Vitamin D status and cardiovascular outcome. Journal of endocrinological investigation42(11), 1285–1290. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40618-019-01057-y
  3. Sintzel, M. B., Rametta, M., & Reder, A. T. (2018). Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis: A Comprehensive Review. Neurology and therapy7(1), 59–85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40120-017-0086-4
  4. Grant, W. B., Lahore, H., McDonnell, S. L., Baggerly, C. A., French, C. B., Aliano, J. L., & Bhattoa, H. P. (2020). Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients12(4), 988. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12040988
  5. Grant, W. B., Lahore, H., McDonnell, S. L., Baggerly, C. A., French, C. B., Aliano, J. L., & Bhattoa, H. P. (2020). Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients12(4), 988. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12040988
  6. Yildizgören, M. T., & Togral, A. K. (2015). Preliminary evidence for vitamin D deficiency in nodulocystic acne. Dermato-endocrinology6(1), e983687. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.29799
  7. Cheng, Y. C., Huang, Y. C., & Huang, W. L. (2020). The effect of vitamin D supplement on negative emotions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Depression and anxiety37(6), 549–564. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.23025
  8. Lotfi-Dizaji, L., Mahboob, S., Aliashrafi, S., Vaghef-Mehrabany, E., Ebrahimi-Mameghani, M., & Morovati, A. (2019). Effect of vitamin D supplementation along with weight loss diet on meta-inflammation and fat mass in obese subjects with vitamin D deficiency: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Clinical endocrinology90(1), 94–101. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.13861
  9. Major, G., Alarie, F., Doré, J., & Tremblay, A. (2008). Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and fat mass loss in female very low-calcium consumers: Potential link with a calcium-specific appetite control. British Journal of Nutrition, 101(5), 659-663. https://doi:10.1017/S0007114508030808
  10. Marawan A, Kurbanova N, Qayyum R. Association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiorespiratory fitness in the adult population of the USA. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2019;26(7):750-755. doi:10.1177/2047487318807279
  11. Tripkovic, L., Lambert, H., Hart, K., Smith, C. P., Bucca, G., Penson, S., Chope, G., Hyppönen, E., Berry, J., Vieth, R., & Lanham-New, S. (2012). Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition95(6), 1357–1364. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.031070
     
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