Do You Need Vitamin D Supplements?
All the importants things you need to know about Vitamin D (timestamps): 0:39 What is Vitamin D? – What it does and food sources of Vitamin D 2:35 What …
Vitamin D is a hot topic right now and you
might be wondering what’s all the hype about.
Well in this video, I go through the top 5
questions I get asked about Vitamin D:
What is Vitamin D?
What happens if I don’t get enough Vitamin
How much Vitamin D do I need?
Can Vitamin D supplements cure cancer, prevent
heart attacks and improve immunity?
And finally do I need to take a Vitamin D
A big thank you to one of our early supporters
Natalie for suggesting this topic.
Now there’s a lot to get through so let’s
Vitamin D isn’t just one thing.
It’s actually a collection of molecules.
Vitamin D made in our skin or absorbed from
food starts off as inactive Vitamin D. It
then travels to the liver where it is packaged
into the circulating form of Vitamin D.
This is what doctors measure when they order
a Vitamin D blood test.
Finally, the circulating Vitamin D is unpacked
in the kidney to form Active Vitamin D, which
is more than 100 times more potent than circulating
The most well understood effect of Vitamin
D is on the bones.
It helps absorb minerals such as calcium,
phosphorus and magnesium to help maintain
Vitamin D also helps the body breakdown old
worn out bone and build new bone in its place.
The major source of Vitamin D is direct sunlight.
When sunlight reaches us on earth’s surface,
it contains two types of UV light – UVA
UVB light from the sun interacts with a type
of cholesterol in the skin to make Vitamin
D. An important point here is that glass lets
UVA pass through, but blocks UVB.
This means that sunbaking behind your office
window or in your car won’t help you make
Vitamin D, but the UVA will still accelerate
skin ageing and can increase the risk of skin
Some foods do contain Vitamin D. The top 3
natural food sources are oily fish like salmon
and tuna, beef liver and egg yolk.
If your mum used to give you cod liver oil,
it because it is the richest concentrated
form of food Vitamin D.
Have you heard of rickets?
Well Vitamin D was originally discovered as
a treatment for rickets.
Rickets is a condition in children where bones
are soft and weak.
Children with rickets have deformed bones
that can fracture easily.
In adults, this condition of weak bones is
Osteo means bone and malacia means soft.
Many people with this condition have no symptoms
But if the bones continue to weaken over time,
then people can develop deep and dull aching
pain in their bones and even get fractures
in unusual places like the ribs or spine.
People with Osteomalacia have very low Vitamin
D levels in the body.
There is a lot of buzz around the effects
of Vitamin D and other aspects of our health
like immune function, heart health and even
cancer but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Our skin is a Vitamin D making machine.
Now there are two things that influence the
amount of Vitamin D that our body is able
to make: the first is our skin type and second
is the amount of UV exposure.
I looked at Fitzpatrick skin types and changes
in amount of UV exposure around the world
in my previous video.
I’ll leave a link in the description below
if you have seen that one yet.
Exposure to UV light is a balancing act, too
little and you risk becoming Vitamin D deficient,
but too much increases your risk of skin cancer
and accelerates skin ageing.
It is really tricky to give specific recommendations
on the amount of sunlight that each person
needs and that’s because people’s skin
types can vary so dramatically as can the
amount UV in the environment.
But overall you don’t need that much sunlight
to get enough Vitamin D.
Here is a quick formula that you can use as
Just remember this guide is most applicable
for people with fair skin which means Fitzpatrick
skin types two to three.
First, find out the maximum UV index in your
The magic number is 3 – if the maximum UV
index is less than 3, then about half an hour
in the sun is recommended and you don’t
need to use sun protection.
If the maximum UV index is 3 or more, people
with fair skin can produce enough Vitamin
D very quickly.
Just 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight is enough
for adults, children and infants.
There is a relatively high risk of getting
sun burnt, so you should use sun protection
if you plan to spend more than a few minutes
Now remember these guidelines are for people
with fair skin.
People with darker skin tend to be more UV
Some studies suggest that Asian Indians need
up to 3 times more sun, and those with African
ancestry need up to 6 to 10 times more sun.
Now some of you may not be able to get that
much sunlight, either because of where you
live, because of the type of job that you
do, or certain health conditions.
Assuming that you get practically no sunlight,
then for adults, the recommended amount of
Vitamin D from your diet is six hundred international
units per day.
That’s one hundred and twenty grams of salmon,
one point three kilograms of beef liver, twenty-four
thousand six hundred egg yolks, or just half
a tablespoon of cod liver oil.
Now if you’re not up to eating more than
24 thousand eggs or are vegetarian, then Vitamin
D supplements may be worth your while.
Vitamin D supplements can vary in their dose
but the most common ones available from the
pharmacy usually contain one thousand international
units per capsule.
The short answer, at this stage, is no.
Vitamin D works by binding to a receptor called
the Vitamin D receptor.
This receptor sits on the nucleus of pretty
much every body cell.
So, in theory, Vitamin D can lots of effects
in the body.
There have been many studies looking at the
relationship between Vitamin D and other health
conditions like cancer, heart disease and
immune based conditions like asthma, but the
results so far do not show convincingly show
that giving Vitamin D reduces the risk of
Let me explain.
A study in 2012 combined the results of 19
different studies to see if Vitamin D levels
are linked with heart disease.
They found that as Vitamin D levels go up,
the number of people with heart disease goes
So more Vitamin D must protect against heart
Building on this clue, researchers tested
whether giving Vitamin D supplements can reduce
the risk of heart diesease, but disappointingly
there was no effect.
The same thing happened with cancer – large
population level studies found that there
may be a link between Vitamin D and bowel
But in trials where people were given Vitamin
D supplements, there was no difference in
You might be thinking, well, why?
Well one of the many reasons might be the
age-old problem of correlation versus causation.
When researchers do these big population level
studies, they try to join the dots between
two things to see if there is a link.
Now even if we do find a link, we may miss
some information in between.
Going back to the example about heart disease,
we found that more Vitamin D was linked with
lower risk of heart disease.
Well what do we know about Vitamin D?
We know now that the major source for us is
direct sunlight, and for people to get enough
sun, they need to be fit enough to spend time
Is it possible that people who have enough
Vitamin D, tend to be people who are fitter
and healthier, and that’s why they don’t
get heart disease?
Vitamin D may be a marker of someone who is
healthy and active, rather than something
that prevents heart disease in itself.
This is just one theory of what might be going
There is a lot more research coming out and
we are constantly learning new things.
As of 2018, we know that having enough Vitamin
D in the body is important for our health,
especially for our bones.
But any other health claim made about Vitamin
D just doesn’t stack up yet.
For most healthy adults and children, sunlight
in moderate amounts is all that’s needed
to get enough Vitamin D. In fact the benefits
of sunlight may extend beyond Vitamin D. It
means that you are getting outside and getting
some exercise and just being out in the sun
may improve your mood.
Another thing to remember that Vitamin D is
one of the four fat soluble Vitamins, this
means that the body can store Vitamin D and
release it slowly.
This means you don’t need sunlight everyday
– the Vitamin D that your body makes and
stores in the summer can be released slowly
over a couple of months to get you through
There are definitely some people who are at
high risk of Vitamin D deficiency and may
benefit from taking Vitamin D supplements.
This includes older people who are at risk
of fractures, people who are naturally very
dark skinned and live in less sunny climates,
those who spend long hours indoors, and women
that are already Vitamin D deficient and are
planning a pregnancy.
If you think you or a family member are at
risk of Vitamin D deficiency, have a chat
to your doctor to see if a supplement may
Oh and one last thing, because Vitamin D is
a fat soluble vitamin, your body can’t get
rid of it if you take too much.
Vitamin D from sunlight can never reach toxic
levels, but Vitamin D from supplements can,
especially if taken in very large doses.
You should be especially careful with babies
and children – they have small bodies and
if they are given too much Vitamin D through
supplements, it can quickly become toxic.
There have been cases of children who suffered
from a condition called hypercalcaemia because
of excess Vitamin D given by their parents.
Remember to talk to your paediatrician or
GP before you give your children any kind
of Vitamin D supplement.
The overall message for you is that Vitamin
D is a balancing act – we know that too
little is bad for you, but getting too much
probably isn’t doing you any more good!
It is about hitting that sweet spot to get
the best of what Vitamin D can offer you.
Alright, that it – now you know all the
important things about Vitamin D. Now if you
learned something new, make sure you share
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Thanks for watching and I’ll see you in
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