Vitamin D | The Benefits of Vitamin D
By Myprotein Writer Sarah Curran
What is Vitamin D?
The Vitamin D group is a group of different chemical compounds. Vitamin D is termed as a fat soluble vitamin, which means when consumed this vitamin can be stored in the body- unlike water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C.
The term vitamin D actually refers to various different chemicals. The two most important forms relevant to human health and performance are the vitamins D2 and D3. These variations are essential for all individuals within the general population and athletes in particular, due to a number of reasons including its role in bone and muscle health, as well as its effect on the immune system and general health.
Vitamin D2 and D3
Vitamin D2 is predominantly synthesized by plants and can be consumed through the diet and supplements, whereas vitamin D3 is a form of vitamin D that can actually synthesised in the body of humans upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Vitamin D3 is the form in which the majority of people according to studies are deficient. It is available from supplements and also is present in a small range of foods- particularly those which have been fortified by the vitamin such as some spreads and cereal products. Foods in which this essential vitamin occurs naturally include examples such as egg yolks, milk and fatty fish.
However, despite this many people in the UK are vitamin D deficient- especially during the winter months whereby ethnic minorities, pregnant women and children are most at risk. As a result, of this nutritional gap, vitamin D supplementation is widely advised.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Recent studies show that vitamin D has even more benefits than was previously thought, with research illustrating how its benefits stretch beyond its major known function of improving calcium absorption and increasing bone mineral density- an essential benefit for children and athletes. For example, in recent years it was found that the vitamin D receptor is actually present within tissues and cells which are not responsible for just maintaining bone health- including the skin, breast and colon- suggesting vitamin D can have important benefits for the whole body.
Vitamin D and Weight Loss
In a study by Major et al (2007) the consumption of calcium and vitamin D was analysed during a weight-loss intervention. In this study 63 individuals were assigned to consume a supplement or placebo over 15 weeks. After 15 weeks it was found that the calcium and vitamin D supplementation caused a decreased in LDL cholesterol and waist circumference. Overall Calcium and vitamin D combined enhanced the beneficial effect of body weight loss on the lipid and lipoprotein profile in overweight or obese women with usual low daily calcium intake.
Vitamin D and Cardio Vascular Disease
In some studies low concentrations of the vitamin D metabolites 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and calcitriol are now being considered new cardiovascular disease risk markers. For example in a study by Zittermann et al (2009) the effect of vitamin D on weight loss and cardiovascular disease was investigated in 200 participants over a period of 12 months. The study involved giving overweight subjects a vitamin D supplement or a placebo and measuring corresponding vitamin D blood levels. Results showed that vitamin D blood levels were increased after 12 months in those who were given a vitamin D supplement whereby supplementation was concluded to significantly improve cardiovascular disease risk markers in overweight subjects.
Vitamin D and the Maintenance of Teeth and Bones
The classical benefit that vitamin D is renowned for is the maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. While it is recognised that vitamin D is essential for optimum bone health, this property can also lead to a decrease in stress fracture risk, total body inflammation, infectious illness and muscle function. As a result vitamin D supplementation may not only benefit the general population but also athletes to avoid injury and optimise performance.
Other Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation
-Contribute to the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus.
-Can contribute to normal blood calcium levels.
-Can contribute to normal muscle function and the functioning of the immune system.
Vitamin D Deficiency Signs
Signs and clinical symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include weak bones and muscles and has even been associated with asthma in children.
Findings have also illustrated a close relationship between vitamin D deficiency and also a number of chronic diseases including cancers, heart disease and even type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. It is crucial to receive an adequate intake of vitamin D in order to maintain a healthy immune system and muscle function which makes it an essential part of every athlete’s diet.
Who should take Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can occur across the population spectrum and is not limited to children, ethnic minorities and elderly people. Studies have shown it is difficult to find populations not deficient in vitamin D, especially those where sunshine is not in abundance such as the U.K and Ireland.
Although both vitamin D2 and D3 are available in supplemental form, vitamin d3 is the most clinically recommended form to take. Due to the fact that vitamin D is a vitamin that we cannot make ourselves in the amounts needed by the body to function optimally, it is important to be aware of the likelihood of the majority of the population potentially having a deficiency in this important vitamin.
Different Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D can be taken in supplement form in numerous ways. It is available over the counter as a standalone vitamin, in combination with calcium or it is often included in a broad spectrum multivitamin. As previously mentioned, vitamin D3 is the version of this vitamin recommended in clinical practice to obtain the maximum benefits from supplementation.
Vitamin D Dosage
Studies have shown that 2500 IU to be an effective daily dosage of vitamin D without causing any adverse effects on participants while retaining all the benefits of this crucial vitamin. Numerous studies have also suggested that the current guidelines need to be reviewed to increase the minimum recommended dosage of vitamin D to a more effective level than is currently suggested in government guidelines.