Lots of us need it, but is there a safe way to take it?

Vitamin D has many health benefits including common skin, heart and chest conditions, as well as being protective against dementia. The Vitamin D Council Health Conditions have collated lots of the most recent research in over 45 different health conditions on the benfits of vitamin D.

Supercharging Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K.

Vitamin D3 has many beneficial anti-ageing effects. Many of these effects are boosted by the presence of vitamin K. This key vitamin works alongside vitamin D to make bones stronger. It stops bone reabsorption and increases bone density. It will also stop calcium depositing in artery walls. Many mechanisms have been suggested, but it seems that they work to reduce inflammation, so-called “inflammaging”, to promote health. Here is a link to a recent article on vitamin K: Vitamin K as a Powerful Micro-nutrient in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Pros and Cons from Clinical Studies Sept 2019

High levels of vitamin D will increase calcium in the body and blood by increasing absorption from the gut. As long as there is enough calcium in the diet this is fine. The presence of vitamin K, however, is important to keep this calcium “in the right place” to avoid calcification of arteries. In summary, vitamin D increases the calcium and vitamin K helps to put it to work.

There are subtleties to maximising these health benefits and most importantly doing no harm. At high doses of vitamin D, if the diet is deficient in calcium and vitamin K, it will sometimes decrease calcium in the bones, therefore weakening them. When taking vitamin D, make sure you take a supplement that also contains about 100mcg of vitamin K2. High quality supplements tend to combine vitamin K2 with vitamin D. Otherwise this can be taken separately.

If you are a female between 30 and 45, the best protection against osteoperosis (weak bones) in later life is to maximise bone density at this age. A combination of vitamin D and vitamin K2 is a way to achieve this.

As a rule of thumb if you live north of Paris and have Mediterranean skin or darker then you will be deficient of vitamin D during the winter. You will feel benefit by taking a supplement.

The B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin D. As well as vitamin K, the B vitamins and magnesium are also important to improve the function of vitamin D if you are deficient.

How much should I take – what should I aim for?

Optimal levels: Studies have shown that health benefits continue to be seen by supplementation up to 80nmol/L. In the UK, the standard laboratory will call a level above 50 normal: this is misleading and is some way below optimal health. This means you won’t show signs of deficiency, like rickets, but you also won’t feel a range of health benefits seen at higher levels.

DNA vitamin D levels: At Humanpeople we test two important vitamin D related genes. If you have variations in two associated vitamin D genes called “GC” and “VDR” then your vitamin D levels need to be even higher to get the full range of health benefits.

Get tested: We don’t like to guess or give supplements that you don’t need. That is why we base our approach on tests. Most GPs will agree to do a blood test for free on the NHS and will give advice on supplementation. If your vitamin D levels are below 50nmol/L then get advice from your GP because you will need more than a normal over the counter dose.

But how much? Most people will benefit from a dose of 2000-5000iu. BUT, as we always say: “it is better to test first”. When using higher doses it is best to be tested before starting supplementation. Then at 12 weeks another test is taken to to make sure levels are optimised.

Is vitamin D actually a vitamin? Historically it was called a vitamin, but really it has more in common with a hormone. This is because it is manufactured in the body and fluctuates with the daylight hours / UV exposure. A vitamin is something that cannot be manufactured by the body and has to be ingested. Vitamin D is very similar in structure to some of the sex hormones. It peaks in sunny times probably because thousands of years ago this was the time when food was more abundant and so it stimulated growth of bone and tissue.

Three conditions that vitamin D will improve this winter

Dry skin and eczema: Vitamin D has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. Along with the correct dose of omega 3 it significantly reduces incidence of eczema. A study published in Nutrition reviewing Vitamin D and eczema has shown the benefit in reducing symptoms. For eczema improvement, results are seen after a month, but a minimum dose of 2000iu is required. Some practitioners suggest a much higher dosage.

ENERGY!! The anti-hibernation vitamin. It seems that when vitamin D levels are high, it stops the body from slowing down and going in to a slower winter state, therefore energy levels are much higher.

Chest infections: Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be protective against respiratory infections. If you have children who suffer from asthma, a study in Canada showed vitamin D supplementation caused a 50% decrease in children being admitted to hospital with asthma attacks brought on by infections. A recent study in the Lancet showed it reduced attacks and the need for steroids. There are some simple gummy vitamin D supplements that kids are more than happy to take!