Combining Nutrients and Completing the Nutritional Jigsaw
Your body creates millions of new cells every day. Your nutritional intake helps decide whether they will be healthy – or gradually accumulate damage.
Nutrients do not work in isolation. The combination of a wide range of nutrients from your food – including supplements – is a key determinant of your health.
Vitamin D3 is a good example of how the form of a vitamin matters. Some forms are more effective than others.
Vitamin D is really a hormone rather than a vitamin, and is vital for the normal functioning of every system in the body, especially the immune system. People with adequate levels of D in their bodies have a lower risk of almost all the age related diseases.
Food sources are limited
Most foods contain very little vitamin D naturally, though some are fortified with added vitamin D. Natural sources are oily fish (such as sardines, pilchards, herring, trout, tuna, salmon and mackerel).
Made in the skin by exposure to the sun
Vitamin D is mostly made in the skin by exposure to sunlight. For six months of the year (October to April), most of western Europe (including 90% of the UK) lies too far north to have enough UV rays in sunlight to make vitamin D in the skin. Therefore a lack of vitamin D is very common. In addition, older people have thinner skin than younger people and so are unable to produce as much vitamin D, leaving them more at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Most affected people either don’t have any symptoms, or have tiredness or general aches and pains, and are unaware of the problem. A more severe lack of D can cause serious problems such as rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults). Osteomalacia is the softening of the bones caused by defective bone mineralization. Treatment is with vitamin D supplements.
Some people are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children aged 6 months to 5 years, people aged 65 and over, and people who are not exposed to much sun.
A main action of vitamin D is to help calcium and phosphorus in our diet to be absorbed from the gut.
Why D3 is better than D2
Vitamin D3 (like vitamin D2) encourages calcium uptake to promote strong and healthy bones. But D3 does much more. Vitamin D3 deficiency, which is common, is linked to high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, dementia and Type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D provides an example of the critical difference between deficient and insufficient. Data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 9% of children across the USA were vitamin D deficient, while a staggering 61% (50.8 million!) had insufficient vitamin D ie. were vitamin D depleted.
“We expected the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking,” says lead author Juhi Kumar, a fellow in paediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr Paul Clayton has been making the point for many years that in a sedentary population with low energy requirements, and where 2000 to 2500 calories per day is considered normal, it is very, very, difficult to obtain all the nutrients needed for long term health from even a well-balanced diet.
But however strong the recent evidence is for supplementing with vitamin D, it is not scientific to single out any one micro-nutrient as being ‘a miracle’ nutrient. It is your overall nutritional status that determines your health. An effective supplement combines anti-oxidants with anti-inflammatory nutrients and vitamins and minerals to support your whole metabolic process.
If you are taking certain medicines: digoxin (for an irregular heartbeat – atrial fibrillation) or thiazide diuretics such as bendroflumethiazide (commonly used to treat high blood pressure) you should avoid high doses of vitamin D.
If you have kidney stones, some types of kidney disease, liver disease or hormonal disease, you should consult your physician.