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What is Vitamin D3 ?
Vitamin D3 can be taken as a supplement to improve overall health or used to treat osteoporosis.It can also be used to treat conditions in which vitamin D3 levels may be low, such as in people who have underactive parathyroid glands, low levels of phosphate in the blood, or hereditary conditions in which the body doesn't respond to the parathyroid hormone. Vitamin D3 also encourages the kidneys to recycle phosphate back into the blood, which helps the blood stay at the right pH.
The History of Vitamin D3
The Nobel prize for chemistry for 1928 was awarded to Adolf Windaus “for his studies on the constitution of the sterols and their connection with vitamins” (1), the first person to receive an award mentioning vitamins. What was the contribution Windaus made to our knowledge of vitamins that deserved the highest scientific accolade? The vitamin in question was vitamin D. It had a long history before Windaus appeared on the scene. Rickets, the bone disease caused by vitamin D deficiency, was known in antiquity and was described in detail by F. Glisson in 1650 (2). Many causes and cures for rickets had been proposed. Although cod-liver oil had been used medicinally for a long time, D. Scheutte (2) in 1824 was the first to prescribe it for the treatment of rickets. It was not until 1906 that Hopkins (3) postulated the existence of essential dietary factors necessary for the prevention of diseases such as scurvy or rickets. The first scientific approach to the disease was made by McCollum and his co-workers. In their early research (4) in 1914, they isolated a fat-soluble, nonsaponifiable factor from butterfat, necessary for normal growth and prevention of the eye disease xerophthalmia in young rats. They named this factor “fat-soluble factor A,” later “vitamin A.” The notion of a fat-soluble essential dietary factor for health led Mellanby (5) in 1919 to experiment with puppies in which he succeeded in producing a bone disease by feeding them a diet of low-fat milk and bread. He diagnosed rickets by X-ray examination, bone-calcium assay, and histology of bone, and noted that the gross appearance of the dogs was quite similar to that of rachitic children. Even adding yeast to the dogs' diet (to provide the water-soluble B-vitamins) and orange juice (to prevent scurvy), did not prevent the appearance of rickets within 3–4 mo. Rickets was prevented by the addition of butterfat to their diet or, most effectively, of cod-liver oil. He wrote: “Rickets is a deficiency disease which develops in consequence of the absence of some accessory food factor or factors. It therefore seems probable that the cause of rickets is a diminished intake of an anti-rachitic factor, which is either [McCollum's] fat-soluble factor A, or has a similar distribution to it” (5). A landmark investigation was that of Hariette Chick and her co-workers (6) who, in 1922, working with malnourished children in a clinic in post-World War I Vienna, showed that rickets prevalent in the children could be cured by whole milk or cod-liver oil. In 1920 Hopkins (7) found that the fat-soluble factor A in butterfat could be destroyed by heating and aeration. Butterfat so treated no longer had growth-promoting activity; the rats fed the treated butterfat developed xerophthalmia and died within 40–50 d. The key experiment was performed by McCollum and his co-workers (8) in 1922, when they observed that heated, oxidized cod-liver oil could not prevent xerophthalmia but could cure rickets in the rats. “This shows that oxidation destroys fat-soluble A without destroying another substance which plays an important role in bone growth” (8). They concluded that fat-soluble factor A consisted of 2 entities, one later called “vitamin A,” the other being the newly discovered antirickets factor. Because the water-soluble factors then discovered were termed vitamin B and the known antiscurvy factor was called vitamin C, they named the new factor vitamin D. In the meantime, an entirely different cure for rickets appeared, in the role of UV light. A long-standing tradition held that fresh air and sunshine were good for the prevention of rickets. Hess and Unger (9), in 1921, put forward the explanation of their clinical observations that “seasonal incidence of rickets is due to seasonal variations of sunlight.” In her work with children, Chick and her team (6), mentioned above, observed that sunlight would cure rickets just as well as cod-liver oil. The field received a new impetus when Huldschinsky (10) in 1919 argued that, if sunlight at the seaside or in the mountains can prevent or cure rickets, then artificial sunlight, simulating light at mountain heights (“Höhensonne”) should do the same. He exposed severely rachitic children to irradiation with a quartz-mercury lamp (emitting UV light) every other day for 2 to 20 min for 2 mo and observed great improvement, including fresh calcium deposition, as revealed by X-rays. He was careful to make sure that the children had not been exposed to sunlight or received any supplements to their diet during those months. The thinking at that point was that rickets can be prevented or cured by a component of butterfat or cod-liver oil that was distinct from the fat-soluble factor A (vitamin A). It can also be cured by an entirely different process, by sunlight or UV light irradiation simulating sunlight, perhaps as the result of generally improved health. This dichotomy was jolted by the most surprising observations, made simultaneously in 1924 in 3 different laboratories. Hume and Smith (11,12) found that rats suffering from rickets induced by a low-phosphate diet (13) benefited from irradiation by UV light, not only by irradiation of the rats themselves, but also by irradiation of the “air” in the glass jars from which they had been removed and then put back after irradiation. It turned out that it was the irradiated sawdust, feces, and spilt food left in the jars, which the rats later ate, and not the air that improved the rats' rickets. Goldblatt and Soames (14) observed that livers of irradiated rats were curative when fed to rachitic rats. Steenbock and Black (15) went a step further. They argued that because liver in the living rat is activated by UV light, perhaps liver removed from the animals can also be so activated. Indeed, both liver and muscle tissue from nonirradiated rats, after removal from the body and exposed to UV light “was found to have become activated, being both growth-promoting and bone-calcifying,” when fed to nonirradiated rachitic rats. The third laboratory that simultaneously reported the imparting of antirachitic properties to inert foods, such as wheat, lettuce, or cottonseed oil, was that of Hess and Weinstock (16,17). They also showed that in linseed oil, the antirachitic properties resided in the nonsaponifiable fraction and that activation occurred by UV irradiation in the absence of oxygen (18). The discovery that irradiation of food, in particular of whole milk (containing butterfat), could impart antirachitic potency led to tremendous advances in public health. The procedure, when adopted by producers, caused a rapid decline in the prevalence of rickets in children. It was well known at that time (1924) that certain animal fats, such as butterfat or cod-liver oil, were antirachitic without irradiation. What, then, was the substance in vegetable oils that could be activated by irradiation? In 1925, Hess and his team (19) isolated sitosterol (then called phytosterol) from cottonseed oil, an abundant fraction in the nonsaponifiable portion of the oil. What appeared to the investigators to be sitosterol was inactive against rickets in rats. Upon irradiation by UV light, it became active. Similarly, cholesterol, isolated from rat brain and recrystallized to a state thought by the authors to be pure, was activated to become an antirachitic substance by irradiation. Therefore, at this time (1925), the conclusion was reached that the precursor of the active substance, susceptible to activation by UV light, was cholesterol. With amazing foresight, Hess et al. (19) proposed the hypothesis that “it would seem quite possible that the cholesterol [we now know that this is 7-dehydrocholesterol] in the skin is normally activated by UV-irradiation and rendered anti-rachitic—that the solar rays and artificial radiations can bring about this conversion. This point of view regards the superficial skin as an organ, which reacts to particular light waves rather than as a mere protective covering.” At this moment (1926) some doubts arose as to the purity of the “pure” cholesterol, convertible into the antirachitic substance. Heilbron et al. (20) had observed that the “pure” cholesterol samples showed spectroscopic absorption peaks in the UV region that could not have belonged to cholesterol. Cholesterol was known to have a single double bond and the 3 peaks found by Heilbron et al. (20) would have been due to 2 or 3 double bonds. The suspicion arose that “pure” cholesterol, as obtained from rat brain, contained a small amount of an impurity that may be the precursor of the vitamin. It was at this stage (in 1926) that A. F. Hess (in New York) asked the famous steroid chemist A. Windaus (in Göttingen, Germany) to collaborate on the question of the chemical structure of the antirachitic product formed by irradiation of the substance then thought to be cholesterol (21). A third investigator, who took part in this exceptionally amicable collaboration, was O. Rosenheim in London. Because physical methods, such as recrystallization, left the supposedly pure cholesterol unchanged, chemical methods were tried. Thus, Rosenheim and Webster, at a meeting of the Biochemical Society in London in 1926 (22) announced that “the precursor of vitamin D is not cholesterol itself, but a substance which is associated with and follows ‘chemically pure' cholesterol in all its stages of purification by the usual methods (saponification and recrystallization).” The investigators converted the “pure” cholesterol into its dibromide, recrystallized this, and recovered cholesterol upon treatment with sodium amalgam. When purified by this method, the recovered cholesterol, upon irradiation, had completely lost its antirachitic potency. The authors state (22): “According to information received from Prof. Windaus, a specimen of cholesterol [was] prepared by him at our suggestion [my italics] by the same procedure. Thus purified, cholesterol prepared in this way was no longer rendered anti-rachitic by irradiation with ultraviolet light. It is evident, therefore, that not cholesterol, but [another] substance is the immediate precursor of vitamin D.” From this report, it is clear that, in the close collaboration among Rosenheim, Hess, and Windaus, it was Rosenheim's team that performed the crucial experiment demonstrating that “pure” cholesterol contained an impurity that could be converted into the antirachitic vitamin photochemically. This was the essential clue that led to the identification of the vitamin D precursor or provitamin. Windaus and Hess (21) improved upon the chemical purification of the provitamin by the debromination of the cholesterol dibromide by zinc dust. Rosenheim and Webster (23) emphasized that the work resulted from mutual suggestions emanating from the 3 teams in London, Göttingen, and New York simultaneously, “according to a friendly arrangement.” With the discovery that “pure” cholesterol contained a small amount of an impurity that appeared to be the provitamin, the collaborative research began by the 3 groups on its identification. The impurity had the chemical properties of a steroid, being precipitable by digitonin and displayed a spectrum characteristic of the presence of 3 double bonds. Rosenheim and Webster (23) pointed out that the amount of the impurity must be very small (1:2000) and hence the vitamin itself must be biologically active in very small amounts. The work of the identification of the provitamin was greatly speeded up by the discovery of Heilbron et al. (20), already referred to, that the active impurity had 3 absorption peaks in the UV spectrum (269, 280, 293 nm). Thus, it was possible to purify the provitamin using the UV absorption peaks as a guide instead of the laborious animal tests. Windaus and Hess (21), by means of high-vacuum distillation and charcoal adsorption techniques, obtained the highly concentrated active fraction from “pure” cholesterol. Windaus and Hess (21) tested 30 different steroid preparations with more than 1 double bond from various plant sources for antirachitic activity upon irradiation. They hit upon ergosterol, a fungal steroid from ergot (Fig. 1), which when irradiated, was found to be highly active in curing rats suffering from rickets. The reasons for choosing this steroid for testing were as follows: 1) its UV spectrum matched that of the active fraction from “pure” cholesterol; 2) it was a steroid rapidly destroyed by oxidation, similar to the active fraction from cholesterol; 3) it produced the same color reaction with sulfuric acid as that fraction. Simultaneously and in consultation with Windaus and with Hess, Rosenheim and Webster (23) also determined that ergosterol was the provitamin D, convertible to vitamin D by UV irradiation.
The Top 4 Reasons You Need Vitamin D3
1. Stronger, healthier teeth What’s a good smile worth to you? If the answer is a lot, consume more vitamin D. According to the Journal of Archeological Science, individuals who lacked sufficient vitamin D had undesirable gaps in their dentin – the layer beneath the tooth’s enamel. Since dentin makes up 85% of a tooth’s structure, irregularities can prove to be quite serious.
2.Mental sharpness Are you becoming progressively more forgetful or even mentally sluggish? There may be a way to curb this, according to a British study. Researchers performed blood tests on more than 3,000 European men and discovered participants with higher levels of vitamin D displayed superior memory function and information processing capabilities than those with lower levels of the sunshine vitamin. If you’re unsure of your vitamin D levels, ask your doctor to set up a blood test.
3.Better overall health It was thought the only way to ward off colds and the flu was to maniacally wash your hands and get the flu shot. Adding vitamin D to your daily supplement regimen can help bolster your defenses, according to Colorado and Massachusetts researchers. Their study found participants with smaller amounts of vitamin D in their bloodstream were over 30% more likely to have had a recent infection than those whose blood tests indicated higher levels of vitamin D. And a meta-analysis discovered vitamin D supplements seem to reduce the risk of infection by about 10 percent.
4.Healthier heart Do heart problems run in your family? If so, you might be interested to know people with the lowest levels of vitamin D had an 81% increased potential to die from heart disease, 64% greater risk of heart attacks, and 57% higher chance of early death than those with the highest vitamin D levels, according to a Copenhagen University Hospital study. Add vitamin D-rich foods and beverages such as salmon and milk to your grocery list to better your odds.
Shocking Facts About Vitamin D3
1. You get it through diet and sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin because when your skin is exposed to the sun, your body manufactures it. Many people only need about 15 minutes of sun three times a week for their bodies to make adequate amounts of the vitamin, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, when you’re in a cloudy or shady area, or when you use sunscreen (which you should!) your body’s ability to make vitamin D is reduced. In addition, ethnic groups with darker skin also produce lower amounts. 2. It helps boost the immune system. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen recently determined that vitamin D is necessary to activate the immune system’s T-cells that identify and attack bad pathogens circulating throughout the body. Without enough of this vitamin, your body isn’t as effective in fighting infection. Your doctor may give you a blood test to determine if you have adequate levels of vitamin D in your system. If you don’t have enough of the nutrient, you may need to take a supplement, either over-the-counter or by prescription.
3. It may help protect against chronic diseases. Not only does vitamin D help boost the immune system, research suggests it may also help protect against many autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Interestingly, these diseases tend to be more prevalent in locations that are farther away from the equator, where people have less exposure to the sunlight the body needs to make vitamin D on its own.
4. It is essential for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the food you eat, which is important for normal bone growth and development. Without enough of the nutrient, bones can become brittle and soft. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is linked to osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children.
The Benefits of Vitamin D3
1. Nutrition for Your Brain Getting enough vitamin D is important for your neurological health and promising research has been building over the last few years around the correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin D deficiency. There are over 35 million Alzheimer’s sufferers worldwide. Over 5 million of those are in America, and that number is expected to explode to 15 million by 2050.  It’s not to say that a vitamin D supplement will prevent Alzheimer’s but considering that around 90% of Alzheimer’s disease patients have low levels of vitamin D, researchers are examining the role of this nutrient. A recent study showed the effects of vitamin D on Alzheimer’s occurrence in elderly women. The study demonstrated that the group with the highest intake of Vitamin D (20% of the participants) experienced lower Alzheimer’s disease incidence.  Another study focused on 300 elderly people showed a profound 250% increase in occurrence of Alzheimer’s cases in people with low blood levels of Vitamin D.
2. Nutritional Support for Autoimmune Disorders Autoimmune disorders have increased dramatically in recent decades, and within that time a little over 80 types of autoimmune diseases have been classified. Vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator and autoimmune disease describe a condition in which the body and its immune system (white blood cells, killer T cells, etc.) are stimulated and/or tricked into attacking healthy bodily tissues/organs, a process that doesn’t occur under normal circumstances. Adult women regularly consuming a multivitamin with just 400 IU/day of Vitamin D in one study had a 40% reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another study showed high dose Vitamin D supplementation resulted in RA symptom improvements in an astonishing 89% of patients and 45% of patients obtaining complete remission. In this instance, it appears that adequate vitamin D was very beneficial to joint health.
3. Immune System Support The cold and flu are two of the most common illnesses that have plagued humanity for centuries, and we still haven’t been able to figure out how to beat them. While potentially dangerous in a small subset of people, they are generally seen as a nuisance more so than a fatal disease. Usually, illness occurs when the immune system — our main line of defense — isn’t functioning properly. Looking at 31 previous years of statistics on flu activity and the highest months of flu contraction in the United States, December through March are the peak months of activity (February being the most active month). UVB rays from the sun are, for the most part, muted throughout the winter months in most of North America, hence little to no Vitamin D production among the populations.
Why Vitamin D3 Is The #1
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is different from other vitamins because our bodies can make most of what we need with exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is more than a vitamin in that is acts as a pro-hormone and effects hormone balance and immune regulation of the body. Most foods, unless they are fortified, are poor sources of vitamin D and there are only a small amount of vitamin D rich foods to choose from. Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption into the bones. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in a softening of the bones called osteomalacia or a bone abnormality called rickets. Some of the biggest vitamin D deficiency symptoms include: • Weakened immune system • Seasonal depression • Autoimmune disease • Cancer • Weak bones (osteopenia) • Skin issues eczema and psoriasis • Dementia People most prone to a vitamin D deficiency include those who live in northern regions with little sunlight exposure, people with darker skin, people on low fat diets and those taking steroids and weight loss medications. Vitamin D also helps with cell replication, and may play a role in the development of autoimmune conditions. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day and the Daily Value is 400 IU.
Top 3 Questions People Ask About Vitamin D3
1.What is the Blood Test for Vitamin D3 Called?
As explained above, if you're concerned about a Vitamin D deficiency, you want the 25(OH)D test to measure the calcidiol level. The blood test designated 1,25(OH)D will not tell you what the body stores of calcidiol are, but it is the test sometimes ordered when you ask your physician for a vitamin D test. Be specific when you request the test that you want to test vitamin D3, not just vitamin D.
2.What Level of Vitamin D3 is Being Recommended to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency? The vitamin D3 research community has generally agreed that an individual should seek to maintain a level between 40 and 60 ng/ml, with a few researchers advocating an upper range as high as 80 ng/ml to get the full benefits of the vitamin D3 system. Also, be careful when you interpret the test result. In the U.S., the number will be reported as nanograms per milliliter, or ng/ml. In Canada, and some other countries, the test result is reported in nanomoles per liter, or nmol/L, a number that is 2.5 times ng/ml, so the 40 to 60 ng/ml levels correspond to 100 to 150 nmol/L. Make sure you are aware which units are being used when you interpret your test result. If your doctor says you're at 50 nmol/L, and you think you're in the recommended 40 to 60 ng/ml range, you'll actually be very low at only 20 ng/ml.
3.What is the Vitamin D3 Dosage Required to Reach the 40 to 60 ng/ml Range? That's where it gets tricky. Everyone starts at different starting points, reacts differently to sunshine, has different body sizes, different skin pigmentation, etc., so it's advisable to be do regular testing if one is supplementing with vitamin D3. It probably makes the most sense to test at least twice a year for a time, at the end of winter, and again at the end of summer, so that one can determine how much vitamin D3 is manufactured by summer sun exposure, and how much is needed during winter to maintain any particular level.
Tips for a Vitamin D3
Take a balanced approach to sun exposure. UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. From May to August in Victoria, get two to three hours of midday sun exposure per week. In Victoria, UV levels fall below three from May to August. At this time, most people need two to three hours of midday winter sun exposure to the face, arms, hands (or equivalent area of skin) over the course of a week. People with naturally very dark skin may require three to six times this amount of sun. From September to April in Victoria, get a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure each day. In Victoria, UV levels reach three and above for much of the day from September to April, and sun protection is required. At this time, most people need just a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure to the face, arms, hands (or equivalent area of skin). People with naturally very dark skin, may require three to six times this amount of sun. Use a combination of sun protection measures between September and April, when UV levels are three and above. Use a combination of clothing, sunscreen, hats, shade and sunglasses. Sunscreen use should not put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency.