Vitamin D is among the top three most common deficiencies in the United States. So that explains why a 2020 ConsumerLab.com survey found that vitamin D remains the most popular supplement, with 66% of respondents purchasing it. There’s no denying that vitamin D is important: it plays a key role in bone health, as well as supporting immune health, brain cell activity, and muscle function. But should you take vitamin D supplements? Are they really effective?
According to experts, most people could benefit from these supplements, especially vegans and those who have limited sun exposure because they live somewhere with long winters. It’s also worth noting that your vitamin D needs increase after the age of 70, making it more difficult to meet daily needs.
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“People with low levels of vitamin D may experience fatigue, mood swings and muscle weakness,” says Jamie Nadeau, RD. “Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D supports your immune system which is responsible for fighting bacteria and viruses, lowers your risk for osteoporosis, and studies have also shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with risk. The best thing you can do to determine whether or not you need a vitamin D supplement is to see your doctor and have your vitamin D checked. “
Once your doctor has determined that you have a deficiency through blood tests, they may suggest that you take a vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin that contains vitamin D. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is of 600 international units (IU). However, Ana Reisdorf, MS, a registered dietitian at Wellness Verge, says that’s the minimum – and she actually advises aiming for more than 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU).
“Clear signs of vitamin D deficiency, such as weak bones or extreme fatigue, are rare,” explains Reisdorf. “But if you work indoors and live in a colder climate, you probably need a vitamin D supplement. In fact, I think everyone should be taking a vitamin D supplement right now. Most of the time. of us spend far too much time indoors and don’t get enough vitamin D, which comes from the sun. “
This is because spending time in the sun can cause your skin to produce vitamin D, but its amount depends on various complex factors, such as the season, the latitude of your location, the pigmentation of your skin and the time of day. daytime. And unfortunately, wearing sunscreen can prevent the sun from entering your skin, allowing your body to synthesize vitamin D.
“Experts say that between 5 and 30 minutes of sun exposure without protection of the face, arms, hands and legs may be sufficient, however, exposure to the sun without protection is not recommended due to the risk of skin cancer, ”explains Nadeau.
Vitamin D is also found naturally in some foods, like salmon, tuna, sardines, egg yolks, and beef liver, and it’s also added to some foods, like fortified milk, juice. orange and cereals. Still, Reisdorf adds that vitamin D supplements may be more effective, simply because most foods don’t meet the RDIs, which means you’ll have to eat large amounts of it to meet your needs.
According to Reisdorf, a vitamin D supplement can not only improve bone health, but also improve your energy level, weight management and immunity. And if you still need more reasons to start supplementing, consider that a 2021 study published in the journal Nutrients have found that you have a 0% chance of dying from COVID-19 if your vitamin D3 levels are 50 ng / mL.
The bottom line? A vitamin D supplement can provide many health benefits, and if you’re not getting enough vitamin D from your diet and / or exposure to the sun, it’s definitely a good idea to take one. Having said that, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. So be careful not to take more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D supplements, says Reisdorf. Because it is a fat soluble vitamin, it can cause toxicity at excessively high levels.
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