Vitamin D has surged ahead in recent years as a wonder vitamin. Take enough and you’re promised protection from osteoporosis, Alzheimers, cancer, and heart attack. Another popular claim that all the fitness magazines are making? A flat tummy.
Unfortunately, the studies that threw Vitamin D benefits in to the spotlight aren’t as concrete as you might think. Researchers still aren’t sure whether low Vitamin D levels cause chronic disease or the other way around. There’s no doubt that you need Vitamin D for an optimally functioning body, but it’s not the cure-all that many have hoped.
Vitamin D Benefits for Fat Loss
For those of us searching for weight loss answers, we might be pursuing vitamin D specifically for it’s fat loss benefits (it’s ok, be honest).
When your body has enough Vitamin D, the communication between cells is facilitated. Without enough Vitamin D, your cells can’t communicate properly.
Even your fat cells need Vitamin D to communicate with other cells. There’s special receptors for Vitamin D that signal whether you should burn fat or store it. If cells can’t communicate with other cells because of Vitamin D shortage, it’s like a missed opportunity for signaling to burn fat (and no one wants that!).
Other Vitamin D Benefits
- Regulates calcium and phosphorus absorption, which is critical for healthy bone maintenance and formation
- Boosts the immune system by signaling killer T-cells to begin and end fighting viruses and bacteria
- Increases breast cancer survival rates
- Maintains cognitive functions
- Reduces asthma related symptoms and frequency of attacks
- Reduces risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis, which has a higher risk the greater you live away from the equator
How much Vitamin D do I need?
Children 0-12 yrs: 1,000 IU’s daily
Adults 12-70 yrs: 600 IU’s daily
Adults over ver 71 yrs: 800 IU’s daily
These are the US recommended RDA’s for healthy adults. There’s plenty of other recommendations for those trying to treat certain conditions and taking more hasn’t proved to be harmful. For example, if you’re trying to prevent cancer, 1,100 daily for 4-7 years has been taken. Those with Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder are prescribed 800 IU daily.
The upper limit of Vitamin D is 4,000 IU’s per day but there’s no observed adverse effects until you reach the 10,000 IU mark.
So how do I get Vitamin D?
Your body creates Vitamin D when you’re exposed to UV rays. And in the winter, the sunshine that you get during the afternoon or morning is not direct enough to help your body manufacture Vitamin D.
A pale person like me who lives on the coast in California only needs 10 minutes mid-day to get 1000 IUs. If you live north of 40 degrees latitude, the only time you can absorb Vitamin D is between 1 and 3 pm, which is a small window for those of us who work. If you have dark skin, it makes it even harder to be outside long enough to get sufficient Vitamin D.
A good rule of thumb: if your shadow is shorter than you, then you’re absorbing Vitamin D.
It’s important that you try to prevent conditions like lethargy and Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) that can result from low Vitamin D levels. There’s plenty of supplement options, but of course, it’s always best if you get your extra D from specific foods instead of supplement. The list of Vitamin D containing foods is very short and many items don’t contain a very high amount, which is why supplementation might be necessary.
If you’re thinking about taking a supplement, this is what I use.
Vitamin D Foods
- Egg Yolks
- Fortified milk, cereal, yogurt, orange juice
- Cod Liver Oil
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a large list of foods that are high in Vitamin D. Most people get the majority of their Vitamin D through sun exposure, which is why supplementation might be necessary in winter months.
See the chart below for the IU concentration in a normal serving of foods.
As always, remember that there is no wonder drug out there. A healthy nutritional profile is what’s most important to preventing disease. Supplementing with Vitamin D in winter months can definitely be helpful, but it’s most impactful when you’re eating a balanced diet full of nutrients.