Vitamin D3 - information to consider
As humans, we often fall prey to myopia. We forget the complexities of life and nature and focus only on one solution. This is often the easiest option and when something is right for you, more of it is better! Does this also apply to vitamin D3?
Vitamin D3 supplementation has unfortunately also fallen victim to this typically human way of thinking. Vitamin D3 seems to be the most universal supplement in the world. Everyone from the elderly to athletes and even newborn babies should be on vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 is in our opinion a valuable supplement, but are super high doses useful, do they tell all the details and do we go beyond the complexity?
Small detail! Vitamin D3 Sulfate vs Vitamin D3
When the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays from the sun, specifically UVB, vitamin D3 sulfate (cholecalciferol sulfate) is produced. Contrary to what many claim, this is not the same form as vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) from food supplements, because it is not sulphated.
This is a very important distinction that you don't normally find in articles about vitamin D3. People like to shave vitamin D3 supplementation with sun exposure in one comb. Popular terms such as "sun vitamin" or "sunlight in a jar" are the result. This is not entirely correct because the health effects of vitamin D3 from sunlight are not translated one-to-one into vitamin D3 supplements.
The difference between both vitamin D3 forms is partly in the fact that vitamin D3 sulphate is water soluble and “normal” vitamin D3 is not. This gives vitamin D3 sulfate a greater reach in the body.
In addition to the biochemical properties, the biochemical effect is also different. For example, vitamin D3 sulphate does nothing with the calcium transport while vitamin D3 does. It also seems to be the sulphate form of vitamin D3 that is responsible for the effects on the immune system, mood and cardiovascular system, among other things. The sulfate molecule also plays an important role in this and not only the D3 part is good for you.
When one approaches health from an evolutionary perspective, it is clear that since the beginning, humans have been supplied with vitamin D3 from the sun, a little through diet, but not through a concentrated and isolated oral intake. It is therefore logical to suspect that there is a difference. Biology is often all about the details, so vitamin D3 supplements are no substitute for exposure to sunlight!
- A vitamin D3 blood test without supplementation is a good indicator of whether one is sufficiently in the sun.
- Raw mother's and cow's milk are the only natural food sources of vitamin D3 sulfate.
- Vitamin D3 from food supplements or food cannot be converted into D3 sulphate.
- Vitamin D3 sulphate can be converted to non-sulphated D3.
Vitamin D3 supplements in the winter
Generous amounts of vitamin D3 are taken, especially in autumn and winter, when the sun does not shine bright enough to produce D3 sulphate through the skin. It is precisely during these periods that the D3 concentrations in the body slowly fall.
The human line of thought is then almost logical that supplementing the D3 concentrations is extra important. But how did it go in the past, what is the evolutionary perspective? All fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can be stored in the body. In the case of vitamin D, it is in the adipose tissue and liver.
Our ancestors, unlike modern humans, were outside enough in the spring, summer and fall to build up good supplies of vitamin D3 in the body. These concentrations were sufficient to get through the winter. What exactly the normal or natural blood values should be in the winter is not entirely clear to us, but a seasonal variation seems very logical, just as with, for example, cholesterol and other hormone concentrations.
Did you know that vitamin D3 is more like a hormone than a vitamin? This applies to both the chemical composition and the functions in the body.
If vitamin D3 is naturally highest in summer, shouldn't it be at its lowest in winter? Could we be disrupting the body if we take high doses in winter? A 2009 study seems to provide an important indication of this. The conclusion from the research is:
“The underlying mechanism for these metabolic abnormalities is that vitamin D is involved in the regulation of β-oxidation in WAT and directly suppresses the expression of UCP1 and UCP3 in BAT. These data unveil a novel aspect of vitamin D biology in regulation of energy metabolism.”
In other words, vitamin D3 suppresses the expression of the uncoupling proteins UCP 1 and UCP3 in brown fat. Decoupling proteins play a role in regulating body temperature by using energy for heat production instead of ATP production, this is of course very nice in the winter and you do not want to suppress this!
If the sulphate molecule also has important health effects, as indicated earlier, which are apparently incorrectly attributed to vitamin D3, then it is important to get enough sulfites through the diet in the winter. Focus not only on vitamin D3 but also eat a lot of products from the sea, eggs, onions and garlic. MSM as a dietary supplement is also a good source.
It seems that with vitamin D3, just like with enough melatonin, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, for example, we can only expect the body to function optimally if we respect our evolutionary past. Unfortunately, today's world is so different that we have to make wise choices and adjustments based on the whole picture.
Active vitamin D3
Before the vitamin D3 from dietary supplements can be used by the body, it must first be converted by the kidneys and liver to the “active” form calcitriol. During this transformation, magnesium is an essential co-factor. If there is not enough magnesium in the body then it is physiologically not possible to produce the active form of vitamin D3.
If you are unable to raise the blood levels of active vitamin D3, taking more is not always the right solution and take a look at magnesium. If the blood values do not increase after a period of magnesium supplementation, then look carefully at the water intake. Magnesium is a hydrophilic molecule and needs enough water to do its job properly.
An additional deeper layer regarding the effect of vitamin D3 supplements is ultimately what happens, after the conversion to active D3, at the vitamin D3 receptor. Receptors can transmit signals from inside or outside the cell when a signaling molecule, in this case active vitamin D3, binds to a receptor. Many of the effects come about through this “key and lock” mechanism.
Because the molecular structure of vitamin D3 is very similar to that of calcitriol the “active version”, vitamin D3 can also bind to the vitamin D3 receptor and thus block the action of active vitamin D3. The haphazard intake of higher doses is therefore again not wise, even though the toxicity of vitamin D3 is low.
Is cod liver oil also a vitamin D3 supplement?
The most ideal way to obtain vitamin D3 is through direct exposure to sunlight. In addition, taking a good cod liver oil or eating vitamin D3 rich foods is another good and natural way to get vitamin D3. In whole food sources, vitamin D3 is in proportion to other nutrients and this ensures the natural balance.
Isolated vitamin D3 supplements for general use at a sensible dose of up to 1000 IU have been proven to be effective but less “natural”. Depending on the personal context, different dosages can be chosen for specific indications or individual situations. Measuring money = knowing. Moreover, do not let the most optimal be the enemy of your health.