Vitamin D is getting a lot of buzz these days thanks to research and publicity. One of its chief roles in the body is to aid in the synthesis of calcium which is invaluable for making bones strong. Nobody likes fractures! Another plus is that vitamin D actually helps improve balance by enhancing muscle contraction, thus preventing the falls that lead to those fractures.
But although everyone’s buzzing about it, vitamin D deficiency remains on the rise with nearly 50% of the population suffering deficiency. This, despite the fact that sales of vitamin D supplements are skyrocketing due to media coverage of this “miracle” micronutrient. How can this be?
Many people are unaware that vitamin D comes in two forms: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, the latter being naturally occurring and vastly more beneficial than the former. Some vitamin D sold as supplements or used in “fortified” foods contains the synthetic vitamin D2.
The big differences between D2 and D3
Vitamin D2 (also known as ergocalciferol) is the inferior relative of vitamin D3, probably because it is synthetic. In the 1920s, scientists discovered that if they irradiated certain foods (such as mushrooms), vitamin D2 was generated. The process was sold to pharmaceuticals which ran with mass manufacturing it. Food manufacturers saw the dollar signs and soon began “fortifying” food with this version of vitamin D. Because it is so inexpensive to make, it’s very profitable. Although D2 does play a role in synthesizing calcium, it does so in a chemically different way than vitamin D3, and is not nearly as absorbable or beneficial as its natural cousin.
Vitamin D3 is the real deal. Also known as cholecalciferol, it is at least 300% more effective than vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 supplementation has been shown to maintain serum vitamin D levels in the long run, especially in the winter months when sunlight is scare.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:
• Tiredness or fatigue, aches and pains and a general sense of not feeling well
• Muscle/joint/bone pain and weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from a low chair
• Stress fractures, especially in the legs, pelvis and hips
• Serious vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked with cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, autoimmune disorders and more.
If some of these symptoms are yours, the best way to find out if a Vitamin D deficiency is causing it is to take LivingYoung’s Micronutrient Test. Accurate analysis of your blood panel will provide vital information about possible deficiencies (and excesses) in Vitamin D and a whole host of other micronutrients.
Can you overdose on Vitamin D?
With vitamin D3, the answer is no, especially if your primary source of it is sunlight. Your body naturally cuts off its manufacture when it has made what your body needs (even if you are still out in the sun), although sunburn could still occur! On the other hand, there is a fine line between a therapeutic dose of vitamin D2 and toxicity. Prescription vitamin D2 (Drisdol) carries a warning that “dosage levels must be individualized and great care exercised to prevent serious toxic effects.” D3 is looking better all the time.
Sources of Vitamin D3
There are only a few sources of vitamin D, mainly: sunlight and food.
Vitamin D3 is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because sunlight is the primary pathway to generate Vitamin D3 in the body. When sunlight hits the skin, it converts cholesterol into an active form of vitamin D3. This form is involved in a multitude of biological processes and is crucial for promoting calcium absorption in the bones.
Regular sunlight exposure to UVB rays is the ideal and most natural method for ensuring proper vitamin D3 levels. Sun exposure on bare skin for 15 to 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week allows the body to produce sufficient Vitamin D. However, the sun has gotten a bad rap over the past few decades and most health-conscious people avoid any exposure at all, or worse, slather bare skin with the toxic chemicals present in most commercial sunblocks and sunscreens. Not surprising that people are D3 deficient, is it?
Food is another way to get vitamin D. You can get it by eating foods fortified with D2, such as cow’s milk, cereal and grain products. On the subject of non-organic, “fortified” foods, be aware these items are typically processed and often contain a variety of other ingredients such as additives, preservatives and pesticides. (See how Pesticides and Processed Foods Rob the Body of Nutrients.) Many may also be genetically-modified and the jury is still out on that issue. You get much better nutrition and benefits eating foods with naturally-occurring Vitamin D such as fish, egg yolk, fermented soy and pork.
A third source of Vitamin D is supplementation. While most supplements use Vitamin D3, many off-brands use the less expensive D2 in their formulations.
As with any oral supplement, there’s always the risk of poor absorption in the digestive system, rendering supplementation a waste of both money and benefits. That’s why LivingYoung Center offers Vitamin D3 Injections, a sure way to reap all the benefits of this essential nutrient.