Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D3? Here’s What You Need To Know
As if having what seems like a vitamin for every letter of the alphabet wasn’t confusing enough, there are actually five different forms of vitamin D, which is important for bone production, curbing fatigue, and, according to a new study by Queen Mary University of London, reducing the severity of asthma. But what makes vitamin D3 stand out from the rest? We talked to Justine Roth, R.D., certified dietician nutritionist, about what makes the sunshine vitamin glow.
Although five types of vitamin D exist, the body primarily uses plant-based vitamin D2 (also called ergocalciferol) and vitmamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is found in animal products, Roth says. While both forms of the vitamin need to go through a conversion in the body in order to be absorbed, D3 does that much more efficiently. “D3 is the only vitamin that can be synthesized by the body through direct sunlight on the skin,” says Roth. “Actually the body can produce enough vitamin D with as little as 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day.” In fact, according to a 2017 study out of the University of Surrey, vitamin D3 is twice as effective as D2 in raising the level of the vitamin in the body.
Here’s what else you need to know about the so-called “sunshine vitamin.”
When vitamin D3 metabolizes into an active form in the body, it can be used help create phosphorus and calcium in the blood stream. “By increasing the production of strong bones, D3 helps to protect against fractures and osteoporosis,” says Roth. “It can also prevent osteomalacia, which is a condition where the bones become very soft.” But the vitamin does more than just create healthy bones. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can have a positive impact on mood disorders (like depression), fatigue, cancer prevention, muscle weakness, asthma, and more.
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Unlike vitamin D2, which is plant-based, D3 can only be found in animal products. While natural sources include fish (like salmon and trout) and eggs, Roth notes that other vitamin D3-fortified foods include milk, juice, or breads. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)
According to research out of the University of Colorado, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard Medical School, there’s a “growing epidemic” of vitamin d3 deficiencies in U.S. adults. “Since it is unclear how much your body synthesizes, it is recommended to take 600 units of vitamin D (preferably in the form of D3) daily,” says Roth. She continues that a deficiency can lead to inadequate bone production and stress fractures, which are most commonly seen in hips, legs, and the pelvis. It can also result in severe pain during exercise or something as simple as walking. Luckily, blood tests can easily test for if you’re getting a sufficient amount of the vitamin. Check in with your doctor if you think you need a test