Since the COVID pandemic, the confirmed health benefits of vitamin D3 have continually been in the spotlight — and so they should. Most of us know that it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” since your body can make it from sunlight. Vitamin D is unlike other vitamins in that it is a steroid hormone produced by the kidneys that control blood calcium concentration and affect the immune system. Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for good health and influences everything — your bones, brain, heart, and immune system. The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that almost 1 billion people worldwide present with insufficient Vitamin D3, which puts health outcomes at risk. Let’s look at some research showing the confirmed health benefits of Vitamin D3.
Confirmed Health Benefits of Vitamin D3
1. Vitamin D3 Promotes Healthy Bones
Vitamin D is required to help your body control and absorb calcium from your diet and maintain the level of phosphorus in your blood. Both calcium and phosphorus are vital in maintaining your bones’ overall health and strength. Most of the calcium you consume would not be absorbed and would end up being excreted by the kidneys if it were not for Vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency in the body often leads to poor bone density or even osteoporosis in senior adults.
2. Vitamin D3 Promotes a Healthy Immune Response
Vitamin D manages thousands of genes in your body. These genes rev up your immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D prompts antimicrobial peptide gene expression so your body can effectively fight infections. When your vitamin D levels are in an optimal range, the risk of catching flu, colds, and other respiratory illnesses are much lower. The theory is that a daily dose of 5,000 IUs of vitamin D may prevent colds and flu, with higher doses beneficial for exhibiting full-blown flu symptoms.
3. Vitamin D3 Supports Healthy Brain Function
Your brain also contains receptors for Vitamin D. Most of these receptors are found in areas of the brain linked to depression. Vitamin D aids in releasing neurotransmitters, mainly dopamine and serotonin, which can help with depression. One study indicates that adults who took high doses of vitamin D (4,000 IU/day) improved their depression symptoms in 2 months.
Your brain function is also affected by Vitamin D. Vitamin D supports, in mice studies, neurogenesis — the formation of new brain cells. Higher vitamin D levels in the body are associated with stronger short-term and working memory and a lesser risk of cognitive impairment that comes with aging or after a stroke. Enzymes in the brain involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth are also regulated by vitamin D. Other research indicates that vitamin D also protects the neurons in the brain from damage.
4. Vitamin D3 Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
There is a host of vitamin D receptors in the body’s cells, which regulate blood glucose. One particular study indicates that obese adults (at risk for type 2 diabetes but did not have diabetes) who consumed 2,000 IUs of a Vitamin D supplement every day improved their blood glucose levels, and insulin secretion from the pancreas improved. This is proof of the potential for Vitamin D to play a part in helping to slow down the advancement from pre-diabetes to diabetes in adults who are obese.
5. Vitamin D3 Supports Respiratory Health
Low levels of Vitamin D can play a part in poor respiratory health and lung function. A 2018 study from Australia indicates that respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis were significantly more common in people who presented with low levels of vitamin D. These researchers also found that people with high vitamin D levels presented with much better lung function. Additional studies show that vitamin D can help to lessen airway inflammation. This explains why lower vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of asthma attacks, and adequate vitamin D supplementation lowers the number of asthma exacerbations.
6. Vitamin D3 Supports Detoxification
7. Vitamin D3 Can Help Lower Your Biological Age
Recent research suggests that micronutrients, such as vitamin D hormone, folic acid, and vitamin B12, are involved in telomere biology and cellular aging. In particular, vitamin D is essential for various vital cellular processes, including cell differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis. As a result of vitamin D’s multiple roles, it has been theorized that vitamin D could play a part in telomere biology and genomic stability, with potentially beneficial effects of this hormone on aging and age-related diseases. Vitamin D can reduce telomere shortening through anti-inflammatory. link.springer.com/…/jfa.2020.33 (2021). This study found a good association between the length of newborn telomeres and maternal vitamin D intake (diet + supplement) during the first trimester. www.mdpi.com/…/htm (2021)
In this review, higher circulating maternal folate and vitamin D concentrations were associated with increased telomere length academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/79/2/148/5910720?login=false (2021) Vitamin D modulates the expression of various ion channels in cells of hormone-sensitive tissues, including cancers, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. www.frontiersin.org/…/full (2020) Dietary magnesium intake is associated with leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in middle-aged and elderly US adults.
Each 1-mg increase in log-transformed dietary magnesium intake was associated with 0.20 KP more than LTL. Participants with the highest tertile (≥299 mg) of dietary magnesium intake had a statistically significantly longer LTL compared with the lowest tertile (<198 mg), with significant linear trends between tertiles. assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-140035/v1/3b53561c-76ec-43e0-8e16-f.. (2021) academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/31/Supplement_3/ckab164.074/6405446?lo.. (2021)
Vitamin D3 Flu and Virus Research
In 2020 much has been said and written about vitamin D and the importance of having optimum levels to help the body prevent and fight flu and other viruses. The info in this section is from The People’s Pharmacy.
Does vitamin D improve resistance against viruses such as SARS? British researchers suggest that adequate vitamin D levels might help people avoid infection. However, they caution that this hypothesis needs to be tested with a randomized controlled trial.
Why Do Scientists Believe Vitamin D Could Help Someone Avoid Infection?
The Investigators reviewed average blood levels of vitamin D in various European countries and found an inverse relationship with mortality rates from SARS. That means that where vitamin D levels are lower, mortality rates are higher (Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, May 6, 2020).
The authors point out that vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping the innate immune system functioning well. As they note, older people have the lowest vitamin D levels and are at the most significant risk of dying from SARS. Consequently, if older people could boost their vitamin D levels, they might avoid infection. They would, of course, also have to practice other preventive strategies.
Another Study Finds Vitamin D Might Help People Avoid Infection
This is not the only study to examine these data. Another group of researchers came to similar conclusions from their analysis of vitamin D levels and SARS infection and mortality rates.
Writing in the Irish Medical Journal, these scientists conclude:
“Vitamin D levels are low in countries in Europe which have high infection and mortality rates.” (Irish Medical Journal, May 2020)
As they point out, vital immune system cells have vitamin D receptors. They recommend that vitamin D intake be optimized to potentially improve immune response against SARS. People with low levels of the vitamin, the elderly, the overweight, and those with chronic conditions–are also most at risk from the coronavirus.
More Evidence for Vitamin D
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D supplements may reduce respiratory tract infections (Health Technology Assessment, Jan. 2019). In particular, the benefits are most transparent among people with inadequate blood levels at the outset. Daily rather than monthly or quarterly doses also appears more effective.
No one knows, of course, if vitamin D can help you avoid infection with viruses such as SARS. However, another recent study offers even more evidence of the link (Nutrients, May 9, 2020). The researchers analyzed blood samples from patients who had tested positive for SARS. They found that these people had significantly lower levels of circulating vitamin D than those who had tested negative. In summary, they recommend randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplements to see if they will help you avoid infection.
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency can affect anyone, from newborns to seniors. Dietary sources are few and primarily inadequate. Without adequate sun exposure, which most do not get, vitamin D deficiency is a real possibility. A 2011 study indicates that 41.6% of adults in the USA are vitamin D deficient. This number rises to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Getting Sick or Infections Often
- Fatigue and Tiredness
- Bone and Back Pain
- Mood Disorders
- Slow Wound Healing
- Bone Loss
- Hair Loss
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Weakness and Aches
- Bladder Issues
- Low Energy
- Immune System Decline
What Are the Best Ways to Get Your Vitamin D3
Getting Vitamin D3 from Daily Sun Exposure
Getting daily sun is considered the best way to get your vitamin D and keep it at optimum levels. The sun’s energy turns a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3, so your body can effectively use it. Most agree that it’s best to expose bare skin (no sunscreen) to the sun (UVB rays) for 15-30 minutes a day — usually around noon.
Where you reside, the weather, and the time of year, determine if you can get this much sun every day. If you wear sunscreen or have a darker skin tone, chances are you won’t produce as much vitamin D from the sun. This also applies to older people and people with thicker skin. Also, if you live in certain areas that don’t get a good amount of sun, your levels will suffer. These scenarios present the need for a quality vitamin D supplement. I highly recommend Organic Vitamin D3, a vegan-friendly, lichen-derived, organic vitamin D3 supplement.
Getting Vitamin D3 From Food
Unfortunately, there are not many foods containing vitamin D significant enough to provide many benefits. But if you prefer to get some vitamin D from food, the following foods are suggested.
- Wild Salmon: A 3.5-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon will provide about 988 IU of vitamin D. This makes it one of the best food sources. Farmed salmon provides a scanty 250 IU of vitamin D per serving.
- Cod Liver Oil: Cod Liver Oil provides about 450 IU per teaspoon. Cod liver oil is also a good source of vitamin A. However, vitamin A antagonizes the action of vitamin D, and too much can be toxic. The Vitamin D Council warns against taking cod liver oil for this reason.
- Egg Yolk (pasture-raised): Yolks from the eggs of pastured hens can contain four times the amount of Vitamin D than conventionally raised eggs. However, you would need to eat many eggs to significantly increase your vitamin D levels.
- Canned Light Tuna: Each 3.5-ounce serving contains about 236 IU of vitamin D. Unfortunately, canned tuna is usually high in mercury. Most natural health practitioners advise consuming canned tuna no more than 1-2 times weekly.
- Fortified food: A high amount of pre-packaged foods are fortified with extra vitamin D. The type of vitamin D used is usually Vitamin D2, which is much less bioavailable than D3 and, therefore, not considered by practitioners to be suitable for supplementation. In the USA, it is vitamin D2 that is usually added to fortified milk, drinks, and cereals.
- Wild Mushrooms: Most consider wild mushrooms the best vegan food source of vitamin D. However, the mushrooms must be wild-grown and not the commercial types grown inside. Wild mushrooms obtain their high vitamin D content from sun exposure. Wild mushrooms may contain up to 2,300 IU per 3.5 ounces serving — about 1 cup of chopped mushrooms. CAUTION: If you have Candida overgrowth or any fungal issue, I do not recommend consuming mushrooms. And even if you don’t have a fungal issue, I would still urge caution. Mushrooms are fungi, not a vegetable, as many believe. Mushrooms and fungus create mycotoxins which are poisons – or “secondary metabolites.” Mycotoxins can wreak havoc on the body.
Getting Vitamin D3 From Supplements
As you can see, food is not likely to provide you with the amount of vitamin D that your body needs. And suppose you are unable to spend a reasonable amount of time in direct sunlight every day. In that case, you will not be able to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D. This is when a high-quality organic vitamin D3 supplement is necessary for good health. Just remember that all vitamin D supplements are not created equally, and it’s best to do your research before purchasing a vitamin D supplement — especially knowing the difference between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.
What is the Optimum Level of Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can take a while to build up in your body; however, it can store in your body for a long time. A simple blood test from your doctor or a test kit purchased online will measure your vitamin D level. Many healthcare practitioners believe that vitamin D blood levels above 30 ng/ml are sufficient. However, I prefer to see vitamin D levels of 50 ng/mL to 70 ng/mL, which I consider necessary to experience the best health benefits of vitamin D. If your levels are low, it’s a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked every 2-3 months to see if they are showing improvement. If your vitamin D levels are in the optimum range, I suggest testing them twice a year to ensure they stay optimum.
How much Vitamin D3 should you take per day?
If testing indicates that you are deficient in Vitamin D, I suggest talking to a knowledgeable practitioner about the best level for your particular health situation. It is usually safe and effective for most people to take a daily vitamin D supplement in the range of 1,000 to 5,000 IUs. However, everyone is different, and speaking with a knowledgeable practitioner is essential to help monitor your levels and make sure you are on the right track. While vitamin D toxicity is rare, it can happen if you take vitamin D supplements in extreme excess. If you have kidney concerns, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, or other chronic health issues, talk with your healthcare practitioner BEFORE taking a vitamin D supplement. Meds that may interact with vitamin D supplementation include antacids, blood pressure medications, corticosteroids, diabetic medications, calcium supplements, and seizure medications.
Is it necessary to take Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K and Magnesium?
Vitamin K assists in the delivery of calcium to the bone; however, it is not directly needed to absorb vitamin D3. Because of this, Organic Vitamin D3 only contains vitamin D3. Also, since most vitamin K2 comes from soy, I believe the better alternative to consider is vitamin K1, often found in green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. So, in a nutshell, it may help to take Calcium & Magnesium and Organic Vitamin D3 with a balanced diet of vegetables such as mentioned above to get your vitamin K.
What to Look for in a Good Vitamin D3 Supplement
- USDA certified organic
- Make sure it is D3; not D2
- Formulated for easy absorption
- Plant-based derived from lichens that absorb vitamin D from the sun
- Perfect for vegetarians and vegans
- Free of GMOs
- No toxins, excipients, or magnesium stearate
Good Health Requires Optimum Vitamin D3 Levels
As you can see, an expanding body of research repeatedly shows the confirmed health benefits of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 supports whole-body health from pregnancy to strong bones and muscles, blood sugar regulation, a robust immune system, a healthy cardiovascular system, and much more. And all of these areas are affected by COVID-19. As such, giving therapeutic amounts of vitamin D3 to those with COVID-19 symptoms or flu symptoms could help them recover faster and/or experience less severe symptoms. Even though some people may assume sun exposure and diet are sufficient in order to get enough vitamin D, more and more evidence suggests that most people need to do more. Testing your vitamin D3 levels twice a year, especially before the Fall and Winter months, supplementing with a quality, plant-based vitamin D3 supplement, adequate sun exposure, and eating healthy vitamin D (naturally occurring) foods is the best method for obtaining optimal amounts of this very crucial nutrient.
Bikle DD. Vitamin D: an ancient hormone. Exp Dermatol. 2011;20(1):7‐13. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2010.01202.x.
National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D.
Ware M. What Are The Health Benefits Of Vitamin D? Medical News Today Nov 7, 2019.
Medical News Today. Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D. September 2006.
Harms LR, Burne TH, Eyles DW, McGrath JJ. Vitamin D and the brain. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;25(4):657‐669. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2011.05.009.
Vieth R, Kimball S, Hu A, Walfish PG. Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutr J. 2004;3:8. Published 2004 Jul 19. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-8.
Morello M, Landel V, Lacassagne E, et al. Vitamin D Improves Neurogenesis and Cognition in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Mol Neurobiol. 2018;55(8):6463‐6479. doi:10.1007/s12035-017-0839-1.
Yalbuzdag SA, Sarifakioglu B, Afsar SI, et al. Is 25(OH)D Associated with Cognitive Impairment and Functional Improvement in Stroke? A Retrospective Clinical Study. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2015;24(7):1479‐1486. doi:10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2015.03.007.
Scientific American. Does Vitamin D Improve Brain Function? Diane Welland. 2009.
Mitri J, Dawson-Hughes B, Hu FB, Pittas AG. Effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation on pancreatic β cell function, insulin sensitivity, and glycemia in adults at high risk of diabetes: the Calcium and Vitamin D for Diabetes Mellitus (CaDDM) randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(2):486‐494. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.011684.
Ilie PC, Stefanescu S, Smith L. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 6]. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2020;1‐4. doi:10.1007/s40520-020-01570-8.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace your doctor’s advice. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.