Vitamin D - Deficiency & Health Benefits
Vitamin D - Deficiency & Health Benefits
HealthAid ·


If you’re still under the impression that Vitamin D is mostly an important nutrient for maintaining healthy bones you may find it surprising that it is so important for almost every aspect of our health.
Vitamin D, which is converted by the sun from cholesterol on the skin, is regarded as an extremely important health-sustaining factor because apart from being a vitamin it works as a hormone which can influence thousands of different human genes and cells.
Most people think about this nutrient as a vitamin, but in reality, the active form of vitamin D is one of the most potent hormones in human body. Vitamin D is produced as a pro-hormone in our skin after sunlight exposures, and is then converted to the very potent hormone. We now know that it regulates more genes and bodily functions than any other hormone yet discovered!
Recent studies suggest that maintaining our vitamin D levels at around 50ng/ml to 80ng/ml may have incredible health benefits relating to fat metabolism, immunity, viral infections, respiratory health, bone health, cardio-vascular health, blood glucose levels and both types of diabetes, hormonal balance, athletic performance, skin health, mood, joint health, ageing, migraines, sleep, and many other aspects of health and various conditions.


It is believed that in any cold or cloudy countries, such as England, almost every person may be deficient in vitamin D. In America 90% of population is deficient in the same vitamin. Surprisingly, also in very hot and sunny countries the deficiency of this vitamin seems to be rampant. In India, for instance, 80% of people are deficient in vitamin D. The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, people living there do not properly expose their bodies to the sun on a regular basis. The second and equally important cause is the very common today all over the world magnesium deficiency as without magnesium vitamin D remains inactive!





Researchers suggest that people with dark skin tone require up to 6 times more sun exposures to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels! Dark skin contains more melanin which protects against ultraviolet radiation exposures reducing production of vitamin D from cholesterol under skin.


Low levels of vitamin D are associated with obesity, more than 100 autoimmune conditions, certain types of cancer, high cholesterol levels, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, periodontal disease, insomnia, infertility, cystic fibrosis, depression, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and many other health problems.
A 2013 study by University of Kentucky researchers found that low levels of vitamin D lead to brain damage.
Also pregnant and lactating women are encouraged to take vitamin D3 supplements (new studies suggest 4000 IU daily is optimal daily amount of D3 during pregnancy: >)


There are various forms of vitamin D in our body. It starts out as a cholesterol molecule, which we can call vitamin D1. When we expose our skin to the sunshine the sun converts it to vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol) which is transformed by activating enzymes, usually in the liver, to vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). And finally in kidneys, with the help of magnesium, it becomes its most active form known as vitamin D4 (Calcitriol).
Vitamin D2 to D3 conversion takes place in a healthy liver, and the D3 to D4 conversion takes place in healthy kidneys.
Since people with kidney failure cannot properly activate vitamin D3 they end up with vitamin D deficiency with its symptoms including brittle bones, weak immunity, etc. Fortunately, there is also available a final form of vitamin D known as D4 (Calcitriol) which doesn’t require conversion in kidneys and should be prescribed for individuals with kidney failure. Physicians prescribe vitamin D4 (final and most active form of vitamin D) for patients with liver and kidney problems who are not healthy enough to properly convert vitamin D2 in liver and D3 in kidneys to the final D4 form.
For those with healthy kidneys vitamin D3 will be effective.




Vitamin D has a remarkable role to play in our health, influencing nearly 3,000 genes, and playing a critical role in your immune response. Immune cells have special receptors for Vitamin D and depend on it for strength and normal function.
Vitamin D also acts as an immune system regulator because although it stimulates different types of white blood cells to fight with bacteria, viruses or cancer cells yet at the same time it can prevent excessive expression of inflammatory cytokines. In this way vitamin D may be very helpful in coping with allergies and autoimmune diseases. It also prevents prolonged or excessive inflammatory responses associated with many health conditions including autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D can be very effective in fighting flu or colds as it produces numerous natural and harmless antibiotics such as antimicrobial peptides. It increases our ability to fight chronic inflammation and infections.
German scientists discovered that vitamin D increases the effectiveness of human immune system by 3 to 5 times while dramatically stimulating the production of potent anti-microbial peptidesMoreover, ultraviolet radiation sun exposures, which stimulate the production of vitamin D in the skin, has been shown to reduce the incidence of viral respiratory infections, along with a wide range other health conditions.
According to a 2017 major global study conducted by the researchers at the University of Queen Mary London, Vitamin D supplements protect against acute respiratory infections including colds and flu. The study provides the most robust evidence yet that vitamin D has benefits beyond bone and muscle health.
The trial of 430 schoolchildren in Japan found that taking daily vitamin D supplements in winter decreased their risk of seasonal flu, compared to taking an inactive tablet.
vitamin d and coronavirus


According to the Oxford study published in BMC Medicine in 2013 many autoimmune diseases have been linked to vitamin D deficiency. Recently I have read a conclusion of meta-analysis based on numerous vitamin D studies and it stated that vitamin D deficiency contributes to almost all 116 autoimmune diseases!
Vitamin D deficiency leads to autoimmune diseases because vitamin D stimulates suppressor T-cells to prevent other immune cells from attacking own body. If the is not enough vitamin D suppressor T-cells can’t function properly and allow plasma cells to send antibodies against own body tissues. There are reasons to believe that also deficiency of zinc, selenium and magnesium may contribute to autoimmune responses
in a similar way.


Vitamin D deficiency is associated with high body fat, high blood sugar levels, and decreased insulin sensitivity. A region of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls both weight and glucose levels has vitamin D receptors. Therefore, lack of vitamin D is a risk factor for the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity, regulating blood sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance.
Deficiency of vitamin D is also closely related to the type 1 diabetes which is an autoimmune condition.
diabetes and vitamin d


Vitamin D has the ability to block excess estrogen reducing risk of health problems associated with increased oestrogen levels including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, fibroids, heart attack or stroke. Also vitamin B12 is known to help reduce excess oestrogen by reducing homocysteine levels.


Low levels of vitamin D interfere with proper testosterone production, leading to lower levels of this hormone and many unwanted symptoms.


Present scientific studies and research suggest that obesity may be associated with vitamin D deficiency because apart from improving fat cell metabolism vitamin D can also act as an appetite suppressant which effect is achieved by stimulating the release of leptin. New studies give evidence that vitamin D helps us to burn more calories by making fat cells more metabolically active, and by turning our body from a fat-storing into a fat-burning mode. Apart from that, according to some specialists, vitamin D can be trapped within the fat and cannot be easily released. This means that obese and overweight individuals actually require twice as much vitamin D as people with normal body weight.
A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota demonstrated that participants who were overweight had better results in losing weight after increasing their vitamin D intake. Scientists believe that the difference was caused by the fact that vitamin D deficiency (and lack of calcium) stimulates production of certain fatty acid and enzyme called synthase, which in our body increases conversion of calories into fat. Thus sufficient amount of vitamin D intake prevents this process and helps to cope with obesity. According to Dr. Peterson, using high dosages of vitamin D obese people can lose a lot of weight especially in the first week and then up to 15 pounds during the 1-month period.


Vitamin D is important for human nervous system and it also assists in the prevention of osteoporosis brought on by the menopause. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures. Vitamin D deficiency leads to low bone mineral density and osteomalacia (rickets in children). Vitamin D is even more effective in strengthening bones when combined with magnesium, vitamin K2, boron, and zinc.


Vitamin D plays important role in regulating brain function. It aids the development of the nervous system and brain, helping postpone decline of the nerve cells. Some of the Vitamin D receptors in the brain are found in the areas that are related to the development of low mood. For this reason, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mental health problems. A 2013 study by University of Kentucky researchers found that low levels of vitamin D causes damage to the brain. Studies have shown that individuals with vitamin D deficiency perform poorly on exams, have reduced decision making skills, and have difficulty with tasks that require attention.


Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risks for cardiovascular problems because it’s involved in regulating cholesterol levels, blood pressure and inflammations.


Pregnant and lactating women are encouraged to take vitamin D3 supplements (new studies suggest 4000 IU is optimal daily amount of D3 during pregnancy>). Vitamin D supports the well-being of the baby, healthy bone and neural development. It also helps (together with magnesium, selenium and zinc) to prevent child-onset (juvenile) diabetes and other autoimmune conditions.


Most health organisations and groups around the world agree that 4,000 IU can be taken without checking with a doctor or having a vitamin D test (>).
The ideal serum level of vitamin D for older childrenadolescentsadults and elderly should be between 50 and 70ng/ml. Another reliable source points to the fact that recent studies suggest that adults should aim at maintaining vitamin D levels at around 50ng/ml to 80ng/ml.
In case of individuals suffering from heart disease or cancer it should be even higher (between 80 and 120 ng/ml).
Research published by Grassroots Health from the D Action study points to the average adult needs to take 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D per day in order to elevate their levels above 40ng/ml, which they believe is the absolute minimum for the vitamin to be effective in disease prevention.
Unfortunately most people do not spend sufficient time in the sun and as a result they suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
Experts recommend taking at least 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day with first meal. But since deficiency of this vitamin is so widespread (especially in the UK) it is suggested (for those with diagnosed deficiency) to take 10,000 a day with meals for 2-3 months with appropriate doses of magnesium (200mg twice daily) and after that reduce to the maintenance daily dose of 4,000 IU (with magnesium).
For the children below 5 experts recommend 400-1000 international units of vitamin D3 per day, while for ages 5–10: 2,500-3000 units per day.
Please remember that vitamin D supplements require magnesium (for activation) and vitamin K2 to prevent vitamin D from leading to calcification.


If you expose unprotected skin to the sun in summer time between 10 am and 2 pm for about 15-30 minutes a day, you will probably store enough of vitamin D. Unfortunately, getting enough Vitamin D from the sun is more complicated than many think due to various conditions that must be met.
Sunlight is composed of 1500 wavelengths, and only UVB-rays can make Vitamin D on our skin when the sun’s angle to the Earth is greater than 50°. That is why in countries such as the UK, our skin isn’t able to make vitamin D from our bodies’ exposure to the sunlight between November and March as the sunlight hasn’t got enough UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation.
Also, early morning and late afternoon sun won’t produce enough vitamin D as the angle of the sun is lower than 50° and therefore the ozone layer would reflect the UVB-rays back into space while the more dangerous and longer UVA-rays would still reach the Earth. Thus the best time to sunbath during the summertime is probably between 10 am and 2 pm, or even better between 11 am and 1 pm.
Some specialists also suggest that we shouldn’t sunbathe on cloudy days and when the sun is lower than 50° because our body will be subject to the harmful effects of the UVA-rays while the UVB-rays cannot penetrate the clouds and are also unable to rich our skin when the sun angle is lower than 50°.
Also, remember that you don’t need to spend long hours in the sun to get the optimal benefits of sunlight because an extra time in the sun doesn’t mean we will still keep on making more vitamin D out of cholesterol. 15 to 30 minutes a day would be enough. If we keep on doing it during the summer season at least 3-4 times a week we may get vitamin D from our body’s stores during the winter.
Unfortunately, because of the busy lifestyle and frequent cloudy weather even during summer time, in countries like UK, it is impossible to expose the body to the sun for at least 3-4 days per week to store enough Vitamin D for the rest of the year. For this reason, we need to get it from vitamin D supplements.
In addition, when the UVB-rays of the sun reach our body our skin uses them to convert cholesterol found in our skin into Vitamin D3. The problem, however, is that the newly formed in this way vitamin D3 requires up to two days to be entirely absorbed from the skin into the bloodstream. It means that the longer we stay away from showering our bodies the more vitamin D3 will be absorbed, because water (especially with soapwashes away much of the vitamin. Therefore, the best solution, if possible, would be to wash only the parts of the body which were not exposed to the sun such as armpits and groin area, and if you have to take a shower try to use only natural soaps and apply them only areas not exposed to the sun.


There are some dietary sources of vitamin D such as certain types of fish or mushrooms but the consumption of fish is not recommended any more due to high levels of heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals. Mushrooms are often contaminated with dangerous mould. In addition, the concentration of vitamin D in those foods is insufficient to meet our needs.
Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D on condition it is free from heavy metals. According to the National Institutes of Health, it gives you 1,350 IU per tablespoon. However, even this amount doesn’t seem to be enough for adults. Another problem is the taste and the fact that 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil may provide as much as 13,500 IU of vitamin A, and that’s way too much.


Pasteurised milk, which normally doesn't contain vitamin D, and other foods can be fortified with vitamin D but unfortunately they contain a synthetic form called vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) instead of much better cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). This synthetic form isn't as potent and doesn't last as long in human body and becomes toxic at far lower levels than D3. Some studies linked vitamin D2 to the irritation of the lining of blood vessels.


Supplemental vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) seems to be much better form than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) because only D3 is the same type of vitamin created in our body when we expose our skin to the sun. D3 is almost 90% more potent and more efficient in our body and it is converted about five times faster than D2. In addition, D3 produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does Vitamin D2.


There are two types of vitamin D supplements available on the market. The first one, which is commonly recommended as suitable for vegans and vegetarians, is known as ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). The second and much more popular form of vitamin D is known as cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).


Unfortunately, the question whether cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is suitable for vegans and vegetarians is not easy to answer. First of all, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) doesn’t have anything to do with neither meat nor dairy as it is derived from sheep’s wool by purifying lanolin (wool grease). More important, however, is the fact that this lanolin goes through so many processes and purifications that the final product is actually a pure chemical (cholecalciferol). Therefore, in my opinion it can be regarded as suitable not only for vegetarians but also for vegans, all the more since production of cholecalcipherol doesn’t require killing animals. However, since cholecalcipherol (vitamin D3) is still linked to an animal (as it is initially derived from the wool) some manufacturers decided to compromise a little and state that it is suitable for vegetarians, excluding vegans.


On the other hand, the vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), although not linked to any animal sources and therefore often recommended as suitable for vegans, is much inferior to cholecalciferol (D3) due to low bioavailability. Unfortunately, in addition to its poor absorption it is also expensive and usually sold in capsules containing very low strength of this vitamin. The low strength of supplements with vitamin D2 is often the most important factor discouraging even vegans and vegetarians from choosing it over vitamin D3, all the more since most of us need at least 5,000 and in some cases even 10,000 to 20,000 IU a day.
Another argument often used against ergocalciferol (D2) is that unlike cholecalciferol (D3) it is made by radiating fungus and therefore regarded as not natural. Some vegans prefer taking this form because it is not derived from animals, but to tell the truth, it is foreign to the human body, poorly absorbed, sold in insufficient very low strength doses and therefore not very effective. In addition, used in higher doses it is not only very expensive but has much greater chance of toxicity.


It is true that Cholecalciferol (D3) - considered to be much more bioavailable/absorbable form than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) - can be also extracted from lichen, which is a cross between fungus and algae. Unfortunately D3 extracted from lichen may be expensive, especially when you take into consideration recommended by experts today high daily doses of vitamin D. 
In addition, extraction of cholecalciferol from lichen may involve some toxic solvents and manufacturers do not include info on the extraction process, which us me suspicious.


While taking vitamin D3 supplements always remember to take also well absorbed magnesium (such as citrate) as vitamin D requires magnesium for its final conversion to its most active form known as vitamin D4 in kidneys. If you are deficient in magnesium (most people are) then even mega doses of vitamin D will not produce any benefit and this fact was repeatedly demonstrated by scientific studies. In addition, since vitamin D uses magnesium stored in the body it gradually leads to its deficiency. The more vitamin D3 you take the higher doses of magnesium you need. Vitamin D supplements may lead to magnesium deficiency symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, constipation, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, etc. This is true also in case of those who get high doses of vitamin D from the sun.
If you neglect taking magnesium supplements you may experience similar symptoms as the person who shared the following story on one of the websites: “I started to become insomniac last year after several months of taking 2000 IU of vitamin D3 every day. Lack of sleep – waking up at 4am every night – was driving me nuts. Then I read that high doses of synthetic vitamin D3 can cause magnesium deficiency. Started taking
magnesium, and normal sleep was immediately restored.”


In addition, magnesium plays important role in proper conversion and absorption of vitamin D. Therefore, in cases where large doses of vitamin D3 don’t seem to work the true problem is magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is necessary to activate all the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D. Magnesium deficiency causes vitamin D to be stored and inactive.
In people who are deficient in magnesium vitamin D supplementation may not work at all even in high doses taken over a long period of time. Here are two excellent examples: Severe vitamin D deficiency in children results in rickets, a disease that softens and weakens bones. In a case reported in the Lancet, children with rickets received massive doses, 6 million IU of vitamin D over 10 days, without any improvement after six weeks! When they were treated with magnesium because of low serum levels, the rickets promptly disappeared!
In another case study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” vitamin D treatment did not resolve low blood calcium in five patients. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. The patients were given magnesium because of low levels, and, as a result, the calcium levels quickly returned to normal. According to the study’s authors, magnesium may promote the release of calcium from bone in the presence of vitamin D.
Unfortunately, due to soil depletion, stress and refined diet magnesium deficiency is rampant today. It is also believed that the underlying magnesium deficiency is difficult or even impossible to detect and that testing for magnesium is often not reliable because only 1% of this mineral is present in the blood.



With regards to Vitamin D supplements it is also very important to know they must be taken with well absorbed magnesium (such as citrate) as vitamin D slowly leads to magnesium deficiency (it requires magnesium in our body for conversion) and since people are usually already deficient in magnesium and almost never informed that Vitamin D requires magnesium supplements they usually end up with sleeping problems and other unpleasant symptoms.
It is also better to take vitamin D supplements in the morning as some people reported that after taking it in the evening the experienced some sleep difficulties. Vitamin D is essentially a hormone created during the daytime (in sunlight) and therefore taking it with breakfast makes sans.


Another requirement for proper absorption of vitamin D is 100-200 mcg of Vitamin K2 MK-7 (Derived from Natural Natto) every day. To maximize the benefits of vitamin D supplementation while also minimizing the potential risk of toxicity vitamin D should be taken with K2. Vitamin K activates the MGP, a protein that helps direct calcium to the right places (bones) and lead calcium away from the undesirable areas (pineal gland, kidneys and arteries) eliminating risk of hypercalcaemia and calcification of these organs.


Vitamin K2 should be always taken with Vitamin D supplements (especially high doses), to prevent calcification of blood vessels or kidney stones.
Taking 60,000 international units (IU) a day of vitamin D for longer time such as 6 months has been shown to cause toxicity. Such mega doses can be taken but for shorter periods of time (1 to 2 months) followed by the reduction of the dosage to 5-10,000 IU per day and always with 200-400mcg K2 (MK7) and 2 times 200mg of Magnesium (such as citrate). Without K2 mega doses of Vitamin D3 should never be taken for longer than few day to one week.
The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a build-up of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia), which may cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, etc. Symptoms might progress to bone and joint pain, calcification (hardening) of arteries and pineal gland, or formation of calcium stones.
Treatment of Vitamin D toxicity includes stopping vitamin D intake for a month or so (until recovery), avoiding supplemental calcium, and restricting dietary calcium (especially milk and dairy products).
Vitamin K2 (not K1) supplementation is the only antidote to vitamin D toxicity. To prevent this toxicity and calcification of blood vessels, pineal gland, joints, and from formation of calcium stones in kidney, Vitamin D (especially when it is taken in high doses of over 5000 IU per day) should be always taken with Vitamin K2 (MK7) - 50mcg of K2 per every 1000 IU of supplemental Vitamin D.



There are many factors that can lead to that negative result but the most important one is magnesium deficiency. The participants, like almost all of us, were simply deficient in magnesium without which vitamin D can’t be converted in the body to its final form remaining inactive!


Since people with kidney failure cannot properly activate vitamin D3 they end up with vitamin D deficiency with its symptoms including brittle bones, weak immunity, etc. Fortunately, there is also available a final form of vitamin D known as D4 (Calcitriol) which doesn’t require conversion in kidneys and should be prescribed for individuals with kidney failure. For those with healthy kidneys vitamin D3 will be effective.


According to experts we should aim at maintaining our vitamin D levels at around 50ng/ml to 80ng/ml. If we have less than 50 we should consider it as deficiency and less than 30 as sever deficiency.


“The safe upper limit for vitamin D is 1,000–1,500 IU/day for infants2,500–3,000 IU/day for children aged 1–8 years, and 4,000 IU/day for children ≥ 9 years of age, adults, and pregnant and lactating teens and women”. (>>).
Please keep in mind that although the safe upper limit for vitamin D supplements for adults is set at 4,000 IU yet it refers to the maintenance upper safe dose. Since almost all people today are deficient in this vitamin, in order to bring its levels to normal, initially even higher dosage of 10,000 IU per day for no longer than 3 months may be required. After 3 months the maintenance daily dose of up to 2,500-4,000 IU is recommended.
Equally important is to take Magnesium (200mg twice daily) and Vitamin K2 MK7 (100-500mcg daily) as without these two nutrients supplemental vitamin D will be useless (inactive) and it may lead to side effect in the form of dangerous calcification of soft tissue.


There are more ways to test for vitamin D but the only reliable seem to be the 25-hydroxoyvitamin D test, also called the 25(OH) D test. Other types of vitamin D tests can be misleading and show normal or even elevated levels of vitamin D, in spite of serious deficiency. Therefore, the 25(OH) D test seems to be the most accurate when determining true vitamin D levels.


High supplemental intake of vitamin A may increase vitamin D deficiency.


Caffeine products (coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate, cola drinks, etc.) are known to affect vitamin D receptors in human body, not allowing it to absorb all the ingested amount of the vitamin.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.