We need the sun to live. It provides the Earth heat, allows plant life to photosynthesize and live, and produces vitamin D to name but a few of its benefits. Vitamin D is arguably the most important vitamin. Humans (and animals) cannot thrive without this vitamin.
While time in the sun is an easy way to get vitamin D, it isn’t the only way. Also depending on the time of year it can be hard to get the direct sun to skin exposure needed to produce this vitamin. On top of that, too much sun is very harmful to your body. Because of the increased knowledge of the dangers of the sun, more and more people are becoming vitamin D deficient.
We’ve outlined the main benefits of this vitamin, as well as the risks of being vitamin D deficient. We also compare recommended dosages and highlight some great sources of good whole food and supplements, which will help you maintain good levels of this sunny vitamin.
Vitamin D makes Bulletproof’s list of 10 Supplements Everyone Needs. However, there are huge discrepancies between the recommended dosage of vitamin D:
Health Canada’s Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA): 15 μg*/day for adults
Bulletproof Recommended Supplement Dose: 1000 IU / 25lb of body weight
*1 μg = 40 IU therefore 15 μg = 600 IU
Even looking at Health Canada’s 15 μg/day RDA, a high percentage of people are still vitamin D deficient.
Here’s a look at what Bulletproof has to say about vitamin D:
Vitamin D isn’t just the most important supplement – it is possibly the most important bio hack. Vitamin D acts on over 1000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone, and estrogen. It moderates immune function and inflammation. It assists in calcium metabolism and bone formation. It’s no coincidence this is one of the few vitamins humans can make on their own. Without it – we’d be dead. It’s true that you can get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure, but for non-nudist non-equatorial dwellers it’s not enough. If you’re getting adequate vitamin A, it’s almost impossible to overdose on D.
Dose: 1000 IU / 25 pounds of body weight.*
Time Taken: Morning
Recommended Brand: Purity Products vitamin D3
*People with brown/black skin don’t convert sunlight into vitamin D as quickly as lighter skinned people. If you’re brown skinned, a safe bet is 1500 IU / 25 pounds of body weight, but you should always test your blood levels because individual response to dosage varies.
Here is an excellent lecture, given by the brilliant Dr. Michael Holick. He has a long list of credentials:
Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD
Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics
Director of the General Clinical Research Center
Director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory
Director, Biologic Effects of Light Research Center
Boston University Medical Center
Dr. Holick is a leading expert in the field of vitamin D, which makes this such an informative lecture. We’ve highlighted his main points below.
1:40 Dr. Michael Holick starts off by explaining how the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) keeps changing as doctors realize how much vitamin D we actually need. The way they keep figuring out how much we need is by setting different goals. If the goal is to keep you from being dangerously deficient, it is going to result in a different RDA than a goal to see optimum health benefits.
5:30 Holick gives a brief overview of some of the main diseases related to vitamin D deficiency. These include rickets, osteomalacia, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.
8:30 Holick discusses how we were born and evolved in the sun. In order to survive on land, humans had to evolve to be able to use vitamin D from the sun to absorb dietary calcium. (15:30) Holick says the evolutionary process continued as skin pigmentation changed to meet the climate and sun exposure. Fair skin was more common in a cooler climate with less intense sun exposure because light skin tones make it easier to get vitamin D. Complementary to this, dark skin pigmentation was more common in hotter areas with intense sun exposure to protect people from too much sun exposure.
17:00 According to Dr. Holick you can never get too much vitamin D from the sun (you can get too much sun but not too much vitamin D from the sun). The sun destroys any excess vitamin D. Contrary to this you can definitely get too much vitamin D from supplements (you have to take a significant amount, but vitamin D intoxication can be very dangerous (47:00)).
22:55 At this point Dr. Holick starts to look at some of the people who are at a higher risk of being vitamin D deficient. There is virtually no vitamin D in breast milk so babies need to get it elsewhere. Likewise, pregnant women need to get more vitamin D. Preeclampsia has been associated with vitamin D deficiency. Also, the risks associated with a C-section go down 400% from taking vitamin D. Holick says pregnant women should be getting 4000 IU a day.
28:40 You cannot make vitamin D through glass, so sitting in a sunny window is not helping you. Vitamin D can be tough to get through diet alone. You can get enough from eating wild salmon but that is only enough for that day. You’d need to eat salmon every day to keep your vitamin D levels up. (32:00) Likewise, it’s really hard to make vitamin D in the north during winter. During summer the window is only open from approximately 10-3pm when the sun is strong enough to make enough vitamin D. Holick conducted studies that show during the winter the sun is too weak to make any significant levels of vitamin D. Plus with the layers of winter clothing there is no way for the sun to reach you.
35:30 Sunscreen reduces the amount of vitamin D you make by 98%. Holick does not condone tanning but says you should be in the sun with your arms, legs, abdomen, or back exposed to the sun for 5-15 minutes, 2-3x a week during peak hours. He also stresses that you should cover your face because this is where you absorb the least amount of vitamin D, but see the most damage from the sun.
42:40 93% of patients complaining of bone pain are vitamin D deficient.
44:20 Studies show that seniors who get enough vitamin D are less likely to experience falls.
53:00 Dr. Holick conducted a study that showed the effects of vitamin D on treating psoriasis
56:30 Activated vitamin D helps inhibits many diseases like cancer and helps treat other illnesses like tuberculosis
1:02:30 Dr. Holick goes over his recommended dosage. You most likely need more than 1000 IU a day as a supplement (600-1000 IU for children). He recommends adults take 2000 IU a day.
Good Whole Food Packed With Vitamin D
Many fatty fish are good sources of vitamin D but none are as high as the levels found in wild Salmon. One study showed wild salmon averages 988 IU of vitamin D for every 3.5 oz (100g) serving. That means you can get virtually all of your needed (and half of what Dr. Holick recommends) vitamin D in one serving.
Not all mushrooms are created equal. Depending on how mushrooms are grown, they can either contain no vitamin D, or they are an excellent source of this important vitamin. Mushrooms are great at absorbing and holding onto vitamin D. Unfortunately, most mushrooms are grown in the dark. You can buy mushrooms that are grown under ultraviolet light to pack them with vitamin D. You can also find mushrooms with naturally high levels. Chanterelle mushrooms have 212 IU per 100g, Morel has 206 IU, and Maitake mushrooms have a whopping 1123 IU per 100g serving.
We know that eggs are packed with vitamins, so it is no surprise that they’re a good source of vitamin D. The vitamin D is found in the yolk of the egg. This is another reason to eat the whole thing and not just egg whites. You aren’t going to get your daily vitamin D requirements met from eating eggs, but with 87 IU per 100g, they make a good contribution.
Vitamin D Supplements
Cod Liver Oil
A great vitamin D supplement you can take is cod liver oil pills. This is a natural supplement that is packed with vitamin A and D. A teaspoon (4g) contains 450 IU of vitamin D so it’s a great boost towards your daily dosage.
Taking high potency softgels are a great way to get your recommended daily dose of vitamin D. We recommend Now Foods – Vitamin D-3, High Potency, 1000 IU, Softgels. This is a great way to make sure you are getting the vitamin D you need. These pills also come in larger doses but you can run into dangers of being vitamin D intoxicated if you have unbalanced vitamin levels in your blood.
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. Please consult with a doctor before adding/changing your dosage of any supplement in your diet. Take any supplements at your own risk.