Randomized, controlled trials have shown that taking vitamin D supplements can increase your life expectancy. People with higher Vitamin D status also enjoy better immunity and protection from severe Covid-19. There are so many amazing health benefits that you can enjoy as effects of vitamin D sufficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. There are several roles of vitamin D that are crucial to preventing these disease.
Recent studies have showed that the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency may be as high as 70 to 100% in India!
But how much vitamin D levels do you really need? And what are the risks associated with a high Vitamin D intake?
How much blood levels of Vitamin D should you have if you want to live longer?
This article aims to answer these questions and give you clarity on how much Vitamin D you should be taking.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient needed for strong bones.
But many Indians do not get enough of it.
You may not need dietary intake of vitamin D if you get enough sunlight, but some experts say we could be putting our bodies at risk because sunlight also damages skin and increases risk of skin cancer.
White fatty fish, egg yolks and dairy products may have Vitamin D content, they may not be healthy ways to get your vitamin D.
This article explains why you need vitamin D and what is best way to get it.
How common is vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread throughout the world. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, one out of every 10 people suffers from some form of vitamin D deficiency. This includes both children and adults.
People who live in areas where there is little sunlight are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because they cannot produce adequate amounts of the vitamin themselves.
A study published in 2014 says that 70% to 100% of Indians may have low levels of vitamin D.
What are the optimal blood levels of vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency is common in India. Experts recommend maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D content in the blood in order to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.
However, there is still some debate about how much vitamin D you should consume each day.
This means low levels were associated with higher mortality, but so were high levels.
Ideal levels was around 50 or 60 nmol/L of 25-hydroxyvitamin D based upon individual studies of optimal vitamin D status. These were the vitamin D in people who enjoyed the best health outcomes across these studies.
How much Vitamin D do you need each day?
The answer depends on several factors including your gender, age, skin color, exposure to sunlight, and whether you're taking certain medications. For example, elderly people may require more vitamin D supplementation than children to maintain healthy vitamin D content in their bodies.
Also consider your lifestyle. If you spend most of your days indoors, you'll likely need more vitamin D content in your supplements than someone who spends her days outside. Vitamin D levels in people living in colder climates is generally thanthan those living in warmer climates.
Finally, if you take certain medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antihistamines, birth control pills, or thyroid drugs, you may need extra vitamin D to prevent bone loss and enjoy healthy bones.
So, what‘s a safe and effective dose for daily intakes of Vitamin D?
To get about 85% of the population to the recommended blood levels of 75nmol/L, we would require supplements with a Vitamin D content of 2000IU or 2000 International Units a day.
This level of dietary supplements can give help you avoid vitamin D insufficiency without worrying about vitamin D toxicity.
Yes, it is possible to take too much Vitamin D, but you don't usually see issues until you reach a blood level of 250nmol/L levels in people. This would happen only if you take more than 10,000 IU of Vitamin D or 250 micrograms of Vitamin D daily. If you are worried about taking too much, talk to your health care provider for personalised guidance.
1 microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU. So 10 micrograms of vitamin D is equal to 400 IU, and 50 micrograms of vitamin D is equal to 2,000 IU.
Here's summary of how much Vitamin D you need each day:
- For those who don't get enough sunlight, 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day.
- If you are overweight, 3,000 International Units or IU of Vitamin D (more if you’re obese)
- Elderly people over 70 years of age who are not getting enough sun may need 3,500 International Units or IU of Vitamin D daily
Should I take a vitamin D supplement?
Prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is very high in elderly people and children. You might think that getting enough sun exposure during the fall and winter months would provide sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
However, it turns out that many people are deficient even though they spend plenty of time outside. This is when vitamin D supplementation can be life saving and help reduce the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.
In fact, some experts believe that taking a daily vitamin D supplement could actually help prevent certain cancers. So what do we know about vitamin D? And how much vitamin D supplementation do you really need? Let’s find out.
People at risk of vitamin D deficiency
Good Vitamin D status is essential for good health.
It helps regulate calcium levels in the blood and bones, and it plays a role in muscle function.
However, many people are deficient in vitamin D because they don't spend much time outside especially during the winter months.
In fact, one study found that almost 100% of Indians are deficient in vitamin D!
The best way to ensure you're getting adequate amounts of vitamin D intake is to expose yourself to natural sources like sunshine.
But some people who live in colder climates may not be able to get natural vitamin D production in their bodies and may need additional help.
Some treatments like androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer may also lead to hypovitaminosis D and calcium deficiency.
Please note, this article does not contain any personalised medical advice for a medical condition or health condition. Please consult your physician for any prescriptions of dietary supplements.
Advice for infants and young children
Breastfeeding protects against vitamin D insufficiency and rickets, which causes softening of the bones, bone pain and joint pain.
Rickets occurs most often in babies younger than 2 years old due to a lack of vitamin D
In addition to being fed breast milk, it is important for parents to provide adequate amounts of vitamin D. This can come through a good nutritional status and Vitamin D status of the mother or through supplements.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among people living in areas where there are limited sources of sunlight.
This includes many parts of North India.
Can we get enough vitamin D from the sun alone?
Vitamin D deficiency is common among people living in northern climates because it takes longer for the body to make vitamin D in winter.
But there are other ways to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, such as taking supplements or spending time outside.
The most important thing about getting enough vitamin D is that you do it safely.
You want to avoid overexposure to the sun without adequate protection. If you're concerned about exposure to ultraviolet rays, wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Avoid tanning beds and indoor tanning booths.
If you live in a cold climate, take vitamin D supplements. Supplements are one of the safest and most effective sources of vitamin D.
You can also eat foods fortified with vitamin D. For example, some soya milk products contain vitamin D. Check labels to find out how much vitamin D is present.
Healthy people believe that they have enough Vitamin D blood levels. It is important to ensure you have sufficient sunlight exposure or take a daily supplement, but it may not wise to ignore both of these.
Best form of Vitamin D Supplement
Which of the forms of Vitamin D is better? Vitamin D2 or vitamin D3? It seems to depend on how much you take and how high your starting levels are. There doesn't appear to be any significant differences between D2 and D3 when taken at dosages up to 4,000 IU per day.
However, most people take megadoses (doses greater than 10,000 units) once a week or once a month. In this case, Vitamin D3 seems to work better than Vitamin D2.
Also, if you're not deficient in Vitamin D, taking D2 from mushrooms or supplementing won't increase your level any further.
What happens if I take too much vitamin D?
Vitamin D plays many roles in our body, including helping us absorb calcium and phosphorus, regulating blood sugar levels, maintaining healthy immune system function, and promoting bone health. If you're taking it to treat osteoporosis, it's important to understand how much vitamin D you need.
Too much vitamin D, like taking 10,000 IU as your dose of vitamin D daily, can lead hypercalcaemia. High vitamin D blood levels can cause kidney stones, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, and even seizures. It can also weaken the heart muscles and cause irregular heartbeat, chest pains, shortness of breath, swelling of the hands or feet, and fluid retention.
If you're pregnant, don't take extra doses of vitamin D apart from what your doctor prescribes, because it could harm your baby. You can still benefit from regular exposure to sunlight without getting burned and any prescribed vitamin D supplements. Your healthcare providers would be able to prescribe the amount that is healthy for you to take.
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar
Co-founder, SampoornaAhara.com & NutritionScience.in