In my profession I see many people being prescribed vitamin D supplements. I also see many customers buying vitamin D supplements. Some of them ask ‘what is the best vitamin D supplement‘ others specifically ask for vitamin D3 as this was recommended form of vitamin D supplement.
In this short post I will explain why we need vitamins D, the difference between vitamin D and D3 and consequently try to answer what the best vitamin D supplement is, or rather what to look for when buying vitamin D supplement.
Why Vitamin D?
In a nutshell Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium and phosphate in our body and consequently is responsible for health of our bones, teeth and muscles. Certain foods (oily fish, red meat, egg yolks) contain Vitamin D, however generally it is difficult to get required Vitamin D from diet alone.
The main source of Vitamin D is trough production by our bodies when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. This of course can be difficult and generally in UK between October and March we can’t get enough sunlight in order to produce enough Vitamin D (NHS, 2018).
You may ask ‘how much sunlight do I need?’
British Medical Journal (BMJ) advises as follows:
Exposure of the arms and legs (with sun protection on the face) for about 5 to 30 minutes (depending on degree of skin pigmentation, time of day, season, latitude, and age of the person) between 10 am and 3 pm twice a week is sufficient for vitamin D synthesis (BMJ, 2016).
Difference between vitamin D2 and D3
Two most common forms of Vitamin D are D2 and D3.
Vitamin D2 is known also as ergocalciferol is made by plants.
Vitamin D3 is as colecalciferol / Cholecalciferol is made in our body (exposed to the sunlight).
Vitamin D3 is preferred form of Vitamin D as you get significantly more into your body when you take this form of Vitamin D.
If you want to choose the best vitamin D supplement,make sure you choose product containing D3 form of vitamin D.
Vitamin D units vs micrograms
Vitamin D content is measured in two forms: units and micrograms (written as mcg or µg). Most products provide information on Vitamin D content in both forms.
- 400 units = 10 mcg (µg)
- 600 units = 15 mcg (µg)
- 1000 units = 25 mcg (µg)
To get measurement in ‘mcg’ divide ‘units’ by 40. e.g. 1000 units / 40 = 25 mcg (µg).
How much Vitamin D do I need?
NHS recommends that all adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 400 international units (10 micrograms) of vitamin D during the autumn and winter and those at risk of Vitamin D deficiency (have very little or no sunshine exposure), should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
How to choose the best Vitamin D supplement?
- look for Vitamin D3 supplements or one containing optimum of both form of Vitamin D2 and D3
- look for supplements containing 400 units (10 micrograms) of Vitamin D
For more information (dosage by age group) visit NHS website.
BMJ (2016) Vitamin D deficiency. BMJ Best Practice. http://www.bestpractice.bjm.com Accessed on 04/02/19
NHS (2018). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ Accessed on 04/02/19