Science Saturday – Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it does not mix with water. This vitamin can be found in various foods, but it can also be produced inside the body with a little help from the sun. When UV rays hit the skin, the process to create Vitamin D begins. Vitamin D must be converted two times in the body before it can be utilized. There are two versions of vitamin D in nature, D3 (aka cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 is found in animal sources, whereas D2 is found in plant and fortified sources (for example: fortified foods like milk, cereal and juice).
Benefits of Vitamin D
Once converted to its active form, vitamin D has many roles. A few of those roles include promoting calcium absorption in the gut, maintaining adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations, reducing inflammation, aiding in cell growth, aiding in neuromuscular and immune function, glucose metabolism, and bone growth and remodeling. Without vitamin D, bones would be brittle and thin leading to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.
Where does it come from?
Vitamin D is found naturally in many foods but it is also fortified in foods like cereal and milk. Fortification is the process of adding nutrients to a food that are not normally found in that particular food. The top 5 sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, trout, salmon, mushrooms, and fortified milk. Other sources include sardines and eggs.
How to find a safe supplement
Supplements are an easy way to avoid nutrient deficiencies, however, it is important to talk with your doctor before taking single nutrients in high doses. Vitamin D should be balanced with other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin K2, calcium, magnesium and boron in order to avoid deficiencies. All supplement companies follow current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) which verify the strength and purity of the ingredients, however some companies may not follow these practices closely. Nutritional supplements are not regulated in the same way as other pharmaceuticals. The FDA only takes action if a supplement is found to be unsafe after being on the market, so it is important to find supplements that are regulated outside of the FDA. These third party regulation agencies each have a special seal to indicate that the vitamin contains safe ingredients. A few third party agencies to look for include: USP (United States Pharmacopeia), TGA (Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration), NPA (National Products Association), and UL (Underwriters Laboratories). Finding the best supplement for you may take time, but it is important to find a high quality brand that contains safe ingredients that will help you reach your health goals without breaking the bank!