I’m often asked what supplements are worth taking and which ones are junk. Like many aspects of health, the answer can be specific to each individual. Oftentimes, people look at supplements as short cuts to improved body composition, athletic performance, etc when the reality is that there are no short cuts. You have to eat well, get the necessary sleep and exercise appropriately. Once those three things are in order, there are cases where adding in supplements can be beneficial. In my opinion, one of the best and easiest supplements to start with is Vitamin D.
Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to:
Muscle weakness, bone pain, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, severe asthma in children, cancer and immune derangement, SEASONAL DEPRESSION… just to name a few. Obviously those are some pretty serious diseases that we want to avoid.
The bad news is that recent studies indicate that anywhere from 50-75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D… YIKES! The good news is that improving your vitamin D levels is as simple as spending some time in the sun. Vitamin D is actually produced by cells in your skin called keratinocytes (and a few other cell types). The vitamin D produced in your skin then travels systemically throughout the rest of the body, affecting and regulating all kinds of processes.
Of course, many of us don’t live in nice sunny places like the one above, and worse yet are forced to spend our days inside where we get zero natural sunlight. What is a person to do??? Lets be clear, I think the number one option is to make Vitamin D the natural way by spending time outside. Avoid getting burned of course, but its the free, safe and enjoyable to be outside. That said, the body has adapted to other methods of Vitamin D acquisition, notably through absorption through the GI tract. After absorbing Vitamin D, it travels to the liver where it is converted into calcidiol… the same product produced by your skin and metabolically nothing is different from that point on.
OK, so where can we get vitamin D from besides the sun? Some foods like wild salmon, mackeral and other fishes are loaded with Vitamin D but ultimately are not going to get the job done by themselves. An oral supplement is the way to go in my opinion. I personally use “NowFoods 1000 IU” daily in the winter to help keep my vitamin D levels elevated. One little pill does the trick and it is safe at that dose. The only people that may have problems with Vitamin D are people with wool allergies due to the isolation method. That said, its extremely rare so most people should do just fine.