Women's Health October 2017
Winter is coming. But just because you’re preparing to say goodbye to the sunshine for a few short months doesn’t mean that you should be bidding adieu to the “sunshine vitamin” known as vitamin D—or, if we’re getting specific, vitamin D3.
As if having what seems like a vitamin for every letter of the alphabet wasn’t confusing enough, there are actually five different forms of vitamin D, which is important for bone production, curbing fatigue, and, according to a new study by Queen Mary University of London, reducing the severity of asthma. But what makes vitamin D3 stand out from the rest? We talked to Justine Roth, R.D., certified dietician nutritionist, about what makes the sunshine vitamin glow.
Although five types of vitamin D exist, the body primarily uses plant-based vitamin D2 (also called ergocalciferol) and vitmamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is found in animal products, Roth says. While both forms of the vitamin need to go through a conversion in the body in order to be absorbed, D3 does that much more efficiently. “D3 is the only vitamin that can be synthesized by the body through direct sunlight on the skin,” says Roth. “Actually the body can produce enough vitamin D with as little as 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day.” In fact, according to a 2017 study out of the University of Surrey, vitamin D3 is twice as effective as D2 in raising the level of the vitamin in the body.
Here's what else you need to know about the so-called "sunshine vitamin."
When vitamin D3 metabolizes into an active form in the body, it can be used help create phosphorus and calcium in the blood stream. “By increasing the production of strong bones, D3 helps to protect against fractures and osteoporosis,” says Roth. “It can also prevent osteomalacia, which is a condition where the bones become very soft.” But the vitamin does more than just create healthy bones. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can have a positive impact on mood disorders (like depression), fatigue, cancer prevention, muscle weakness, asthma, and more.