Vitamin D Supplements: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Vitamin D, most popularly known as “the sunshine vitamin”, is an essential vitamin for the body. It helps in regulating the absorption of phosphorus and calcium. In addition, it plays a critical role in preventing inflammation in the body. However, you can understand vitamin D as more of a hormone than a vitamin. It is due to the ability of our bodies to produce vitamin D from cholesterol. However, this process requires a dash of sunlight every day. Therefore, spending some time every day in the sun can help us meet our daily vitamin D requirements. However, vitamin D deficiency is a significant health concern globally and people opt for consuming Vitamin D Supplements.

It is so common that a large part of the population requires supplements to meet their daily vitamin D requirements. As per research, over one million people worldwide have lower vitamin D levels, while 50% of the population suffers from vitamin D insufficiency. Vitamin D is present in very low concentrations in our foods. Therefore, it is not sufficient to meet our daily needs. That is why most people require vitamin D supplements to meet their requirements.

Vitamin D maintains and restores the body’s nutritional levels and keeps it healthy. However, people who do not get enough sun exposure require vitamin D supplements. So, if you are wondering whether you need vitamin D supplements, this article will help you gain some ( better) clarity.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore, the body needs an appropriate amount of healthy fats to absorb this vitamin. Our body needs it to maintain the bones’ health and absorb calcium and phosphorus from the small intestine.

As per research, people with vitamin D deficiency can develop brittle, soft, and weak bones. Moreover, the lack of this vitamin may also be responsible for the development of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. 

Types of Vitamin D

There are five forms of vitamin D: D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5. However, Vitamin D2 and D3 are the most important forms of vitamin D for the human body.

Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol)

Vitamin D2 comes from plant-based foods such as mushrooms that receive sufficient sunlight. These foods are the richest vitamin D sources for vegetarians.

Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D3 is present in food sources like fish. Our skin also produces vitamin D3 from cholesterol present in our body in the presence of sunlight. 

Both vitamins are necessary for the proper functioning of our body. Supplements of both types of Vitamin D, i.e. Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, are available over-the-counter, and you can purchase them without a prescription. A meta-analysis suggests that vitamin D3 is the highly preferred choice for Vitamin D supplements. Comparatively, it is a more easily absorbable form. However, vegetarians still prefer vitamin D2 over D3.

Vitamin D Requirements

The standard unit of measurement for vitamin D intake is International Units (IU) or micrograms (mcg). 40 IU of vitamin D is equivalent to 1mcg. Our bodies require vitamin D every day. As per research, the average requirements of vitamin D intake are:

  • Infants: Birth to 12 months: 10 mcg or 400 IU
  • Children and Teens: 1-18 years: 15 mcg or 600 IU
  • Adults: 19-70 years: 15 mcg or 600 IU
  • Adults: Older than 71 years: 20 mcg or 800 IU
  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding women: 15 mcg or 600 IU