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There’s no agreed consensus regarding serum levels of Vitamin D or how much to supplement. What we do know is that most people are deficient in vitamin D, and that this increases the risk of a number of health problems. How do you know if this is the case for you, and whether you should take a vitamin D supplement?
Vitamin D is mostly synthesized by the skin if it is sufficiently exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It’s naturally present in very few foods. The only foods that contain vitamin D in its natural form are oily fish, shitake mushrooms and egg yolks. Other sources of dietary vitamin D come from foods that have been enriched, such as milk, margarine and certain plant-based drinks. In North America, during the winter months, skin isn’t sufficiently exposed to the sun to produce enough vitamin D, and it is very difficult to obtain adequate levels of this nutrient through food.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a multitude of health issues including, to name but a few, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, a weakened immune system and an impaired sports performance.
An optimal intake of vitamin D can optimize your sports performance via its numerous benefits for bone health, muscle function, immune function and inflammation modulation. What this signifies is that getting enough vitamin D could diminish certain factors that harm performance, such as stress fractures, muscle cramps, and colds and flues.
Vitamin D receptors have been found in several areas of the brain, including those related to depression. Vitamin D could increase the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter with calming qualities, and in that way reduce depression. Some studies suggest that supplementing vitamin D could reduce the symptoms of depression, especially for people experiencing severe depression or excess weight.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it is stored in your body’s fat stores. This means if you have a blood test in the autumn to verify your levels, these will probably be normal if you’ve spent the summer in the sunshine and your body has been able to store a certain amount of vitamin D. However, come winter, your stores of vitamin D will surely decrease, hence the importance of taking a supplement during the months of October through to April. Since the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight diminishes with age, people aged 50 or older should take a supplement all year round. The organisation Osteoporosis Canada also suggests that people suffering from osteoporosis should take vitamin D supplements throughout the year.
Here are the general recommendations for vitamin D supplementation:
Depending on factors like your genetics and your health, you might need a higher dose. In any case, you can carry out a blood test to check your levels of vitamin D. Your doctor may recommend a supplement if this is necessary. As mentioned above, don’t forget that your levels of vitamin D can vary from month to month depending on your level of exposure to sunlight.