An estimated 1 billion people, across all ethnicities and age groups, suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. This pandemic of "hypovitaminosis D" is mainly attributed to a person's lifestyle (for example, reduced outdoor activities) and environmental (for example, air pollution) factors that reduce exposure to sunlight, which is required for ultraviolet-B (UVB)-induced vitamin D production in the skin1. But what many people don't know is that there are different forms of vitamin D.
Vitamin D comes in 2 different forms, D2 and D32. Vitamin D2, which is also known as ergocalciferol is what is produced by mushrooms when they are exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is the type of D vitamin that is made by the human skin.
When vitamins D2 or D3 enter into the body, they are converted to a hormone, calcitriol. That is the hormone that benefits the body and is why sometimes Vitamin D is called calciferol, even though it could be either vitamin D2 or D3. Many experts believe that vitamin D3 is the best way to supplement vitamin D because it comes from sun exposure. Also the vitamin might be easier for your body to absorb.
Vitamin D3 is produced by the human skin or, more specifically, a pre-vitamin D3 is produced. When ultraviolet B rays are absorbed by the skin from exposure to sunlight, the pre-vitamin D3 is taken to the liver to become D3 (calcidiol). It is then carried to the kidneys and converted into the active form of vitamin D, calcitriol.
The amount of vitamin D3 your body produces depends on various factors. They could include sunscreen use, cloud cover, and clothing. For example, using SPF factor 8 sunscreen, which offers very limited coverage may decrease how much vitamin D your body is producing by 95%. Due to the prevalence of skin cancer, however, it is important to limit sun exposure. Therefore, getting vitamin D in your diet is important.
How Much to Take and How Does It Work?
If you don't get enough vitamin D, your body will not be able to properly absorb dietary calcium. That is why vitamin D is so important for the strength of your bones. In addition, it helps cells grow in the body, including those associated with your immune system. Some research has suggested vitamin D can lower your blood pressure and may even prevent certain types of cancer.
It is difficult to determine how much vitamin D is being produced naturally through sunlight exposure. In order to make sure you are getting enough, it is generally recommended that you take a vitamin D3 supplement.
Sources for Vitamin D
You will have a hard time getting vitamin D that is naturally present in most foods. If you are looking for natural sources of vitamin D in food, fish is a good choice, especially salmon or trout. These types of fish will provide you with the vitamin D you need in a 3-ounce serving. Other sources include canned tuna, halibut, and rockfish, although the levels of vitamin D are lower.
To make sure you are getting enough vitamin D each day, we recommend NATURELO Plant-Based Vitamin D3 made from wild-harvested lichens.
1. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin, 2012 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 118–126
2. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements | Vitamin D
3. Enough vitamin D may protect against some cancers, June, 2018