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Did you know that Vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin?

Did you know that Vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin?

Vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin. While vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through the diet or supplements, the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin.

Vitamin D is produced when sunlight converts cholesterol on the skin into vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is then converted into calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D3) in the liver. The kidneys then convert calcidiol into the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol (1,25-hydroxyvitamin D3). As such, statins and other medications or supplements that inhibit cholesterol synthesis, liver function or kidney function can impair the synthesis of vitamin D.

Also, people are not getting enough sunlight on bare skin (without sunscreen) to allow your body to make what it actually needs. Particularly people in the northern areas, because they have long winters and the sun isn’t strong enough to have much if any effect from October through May. It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D has a half-life of only two weeks, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient. The risk for vitamin D deficiency increases as people age as well. Elderly people are less likely to spend time in the sun, have fewer “receptors” in their skin that convert sunlight to vitamin D, may not get vitamin D in their diet, may have trouble absorbing vitamin D even if they do get it in their diet, and may have more trouble converting dietary vitamin D to a useful form due to aging kidneys. In fact, the risk for vitamin D deficiency in people over 65 years of age is very high, as many as 40% of older people, even in sunny climates, have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D3.

So, what are the benefits of taking Vitamin D3?

For years it was thought that it was only good for helping maintain calcium levels in the body. However, it has come to light that there are numerous other health benefits derived from Vitamin D3. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.

While taking Vitamin D3 daily also helps symptoms of S.A.D. (seasonal effective disorder) and is being studied for its benefits in protecting against cancer, auto immune disorders and diabetes, another very good reason Vitamin D3 is recommended is for boosting your immune system. Health officials say that every winter 5–20 percent of the population catches the flu. Several studies in U.S. and Canada, have found that using higher doses of vitamin D3 lowers the incidence and severity of influenza. Vitamin D3 protects the body by releasing antibiotics (antimicrobial peptides) affecting the immune system by: promoting phagocytosis (the consumption and destruction of particulate matter; such as, viruses), anti-tumor activity, and immunomodulatory functions. In other words, it’s “fine-tuning” the immune system. The Vitamin D3 Council has reported that 5,000 IU should be taken daily. One rule-of-thumb states that 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of your weight should be taken daily. For example, take a person weighing 150 pounds. Divide the 150 by 25 which would equal 6. So six times 1,000 IU is 6,000 IU for a 150 pound person’s daily intake. This is significantly higher than the traditional Western Medicine recommendation although they have started to publish information recommending higher doses as well.

Can there be too much vitamin D3?

Vitamin D3 is fat soluble which means the body will store it in fatty tissues so it’s often been thought that getting too much Vitamin D3 could be a problem. Both in this country and abroad, there has been a lot of misinformation. Hypocalcaemia (low levels of calcium) is probably the only problem with excessive use of vitamin D3 to worry about. However, to get to that point, in healthy adults, it would take 40,000 IU a day. The upper limit for the intake of vitamin D is roughly equal to what an adult lifeguard’s body will naturally produce in the middle of summer and that is 10,000 IU daily. So, 2,000-5,000 IU on a daily basis is well within the limits of safety for adults as well as for children.

While you can get some Vitamin D from foods, it is a very low dose. It’s recommend taking a Vitamin D3 supplement, especially during the fall and winter months. There are capsules, and liquids (especially good for children) available. A simple blood test from your health practitioner is available to test your levels. Optimal levels of Vitamin D3 are 50 and above.

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