Vitamin D is absolutely essential for good health and has a wide variety of benefits. However, many people simply don’t get enough of it. In this article, we will explain why we need vitamin D, the different types of vit D, how much we need, and where we can get it from.
The Different Types of Vitamin D
There are 2 different types of vitamin D - D2 and D3. This is why it’s very rare to find a supplement labelled simply as ‘vitamin D’, as it will be specifically labelled as 1 of the 2 types (usually D3).
The technical name for vitamin D2 is ergocalciferol. D3 is called cholecalciferol.
Both types of vitamin D are measured in international units (IU). So, you may find that a supplement is labelled ‘Vitamin D3 5000 IU’, for example. This is simply a way of measuring the dose in an internationally understood format.
The best vitamin D to take as a supplement is D3 - it is twice as effective at raising the blood levels of vitamin D than D2 is, so getting more D3 is more beneficial.
There are a couple of differences between D2 and D3 in terms of where they come from. Let’s cover these differences below…
Where Does Vitamin D Come From?
The most abundant source of vitamin D3 is the sun! When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. Hence, it is often known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
This means that, in many countries including the UK, people don’t get enough vitamin D3 during certain times of the year. The NHS recommends that people living in the UK use vit D3 supplements between October and March to make up for the lack of sun exposure. Shop vitamin D3 tablets here.
As well as vitamin D tablets or liquid supplements, D3 can also be found in fish oil, fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks.
Vitamin D2 can be found naturally in wild mushrooms, or in fortified foods - such as milk or cereal - where it is added afterwards. D2 is less expensive to produce which is why its found in fortified foods more than vitamin D3.
What is Vitamin D Good For?
We need vitamin D for a few different reasons…
Calcium and vitamin D
- Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body to keep our bones healthy and ensure normal growth.
- It helps to keep our immune system healthy.
- It may also help to boost the mood and reduce depression.
- It could help to improve heart health.
Vitamin D deficiencies
- A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to bone abnormalities.
- A deficiency in vitamin D can cause tiredness, aches, pains, weakness, and fractures.
- Low vitamin D has also been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, MS, high blood pressure, and thyroid problems - although this is uncommon.
How Much Vitamin D You Need
Most adults need around 400-800 IU per day, but this does vary between individuals depending on skin colour, age, gender, and other factors. If you struggle to get enough natural sunlight on a daily basis, you should consider using vitamin D3 supplements - but do not exceed 4000 IU per day.
Children shouldn’t have more than 2000 IU per day, and babies should have no more than 1000 IU per day. Please note, most formula milks have vitamin D for babies added to them - so if your baby is fed with formula and not breast fed, you don’t need to give them any vitamin D supplement.
Quick fire questions
Will vitamin D…
… help me lose weight?
Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D everyday can help to keep your hormone levels balanced which could enhance weight loss and fat burning. Vitamin D can also decrease the risk of depression and lethargy – both of which can make it more difficult to lose weight.
… give me energy?
Yes, if you are deficient in vitamin D, then taking a vitamin D supplement will likely boost your energy levels. This is why vitamin D is great for fighting winter fatigue.
… help my skin? –
Vitamin D plays a very important role in skin protection and rejuvenation. It contributes to skin cell growth and repair, and can also help prevent premature ageing. This is why the sun is so good for our skin (in the right doses), and why we need to supplement vitamin D during the winter when we don’t get as much sunlight.
… help me tan?
Despite being named the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D will not make you tan. That being said, it’s thought that vitamin D3 can help to protect the skin against UV damage. This means that, if you are outside trying to get a suntan, D3 could help to prevent burning and health damage.
… help psoriasis?
Research indicates that, since vitamin D can help to strengthen the immune system, it could help to treat autoimmune conditions like psoriasis internally.
… help my arthritis?
Vitamin D’s main role is helping the body to absorb calcium which is what keeps our bones and joints strong. Therefore, it could help to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.