Vitamin D or more commonly known as the sunshine vitamin as it is produced in your body when you are exposed to sunlight plays an integral part in maintaining optimal health.
The production of vitamin D in your body is a natural process but you can also use supplements to ensure that adequate levels of vitamin D are maintained in the body.
Vitamin D is responsible for the regulation of several important bodily functions such as:
- Regulating the absorption of calcium
- Regulating the absorption of phosphorus
- Facilitating the normal immune system function
If you have a vitamin D deficiency you are at risk of developing the following diseases:
- Soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis). (1)
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Severe asthma in children
- Infections and immune system disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
You can get vitamin D in a variety of ways. These can include:
- Being exposed to the sun. About 15-20 minutes three days per week is usually sufficient.
- Through the foods you eat.
- Through nutritional supplements. According to the institute of medicine (IOM) individuals having a blood value of over 20 ng/ml is likely to meet the vitamin D requirement of 97% -98% of people. (2)
Approximately 1 billion people in the world suffer from vitamin D deficiency. It is difficult to get your daily amount of vitamin D from diet alone. 70% of Americans are vitamin D insufficient and 42% are vitamin D deficient.
Lack of vitamin D is not quite as obvious in adults. Signs and symptoms might include:
- Bone and back pain (3)
- Muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps.
- Mood changes, like depression.
Some factors that put you at high risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency such as:
- Darker skin color
- Older age
- Lack of vitamin D in the diet
- Limited direct sun exposure
- Wearing a high amount of sunscreen
- Staying indoor
- Kidney, liver and digestive disorder
- Geographical factors – living in climate with less UVB rays
To know where you stand on the vitamin D scale refer to the levels below:
- Deficient: Levels less than 12 ng/ml (30 nmol/l).
- Insufficient: Levels between 12–20 ng/ml (30–50 nmol/l).
- Sufficient: Levels between 20–50 ng/ml (50–125 nmol/l).
- High: Levels greater than 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/l). (4)
There are many food sources for vitamin D but getting vitamin D from sunlight remains the best source.
There are vitamin D supplements available for people who either can not get enough exposure to sunlight or those who suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency. (6)
There are many benefits of maintaining healthy amounts of vitamin D as it is responsible for the regulation of various physiologic processes such as:
- Promotes bone health
- Boosts the immune system functions
- Maintains brain and nervous system health
- Regulates insulin levels and supports diabetes management
- Supports lung function and heart health
- Influences the expression of genes in cancer development
- Reduces depression
- Boosts weight loss
- Helps fight off disease and infection (5)
Relation to COVID-19
The severity of coronavirus infection is determined by the presence of complications that involve underlying inflammation in the body. Vitamin D metabolites provide an important antiviral activity in the body. Decreased vitamin D is associated with a rise in inflammatory mediators in the body and an increased risk of upper and lower respiratory tract infections (11).
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with thrombosis which is a frequent complication of COVID-19 (11). Obesity and diabetes are common risk factors for hypovitaminosis D and have also been reported to increase the mortality of COVID-19. The overlap between the risk factors between vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19 infection has prompted researchers to suspect that vitamin D supplementation could prevent or improve the outcome of COVID-19 (11).
Even though many people are not familiar with vitamin K2, it plays an important role in your health. Vitamin K2 is assumed to be the link between diet and chronic diseases. A recent study looked at 452 healthy adults. Their levels of inactive MGP (Matrix Gla Protein) was measured and, 438 out of 452 had high levels of inactive MGP. In other words, 97% of them had Vitamin K2 deficiency or insufficiency. (10)
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body requires to produce a protein called prothrombin, which is essential for the clotting of blood and the regulation of bone metabolism.
Vitamin K2 is also known as menaquinone and is found in fermented foods and certain animal based food in small quantities. Vitamin K2 is also produced by gut bacteria in small amounts.
Vitamin K2 has a diverse range of functions such as:
Facilitates the production of energy in the mitochondria of cells (7),(8)
Vitamin K deficiencies are very rare in adults but they are very common in infants; usually, a single dose of vitamin K is enough for them. Vitamin K is also used to cancel out the effect of an overdose of a blood thinner.
As an adult you may be at high risk for a vitamin K deficiency if you fall under any of the categories mentioned below:
- Crohn’s disease or active celiac disease are diseases that affect absorption in the digestive tract and cause a vitamin K deficiency.
- Consume high levels of alcohol
- Long term antibiotic use
- Consume drugs that interfere with vitamin K absorption (9)
Vitamin K supplements should only be taken with permission from your health care provider as vitamin K supplements can have adverse effects if mixed with other medications. (9)
Dietary sources of vitamin K-2 include:
- Natto, a traditional Japanese dish of fermented soybeans
- Fermented food
- Animal meat or dairy
The role of vitamin K2 is very important in preventing excessive bleeding and wound healing. Some of the major health benefits of vitamin K2 are listed below
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Vitamin K2 plays a vital role in your health as it lowers cardiovascular damage. Research done in 2015 showed that vitamin K2 activates a protein that prevents the formation of calcium walls in the blood vessels thus lowering the risk of coronary heart disease. (8)
2. Bone Health
Vitamin K2 encourages bone health by producing a protein called carboxylating osteocalcin that improves bone mineral density and binds calcium to your bones.
A 3-year study in 244 menopausal women reported that taking vitamin K2 supplements had slow aging bone mineral density. (7)
Vitamin K2 is found to carry antioxidant properties that can prevent cancer and suppress the genetic process that promotes tumor growth.
A study in 2018 reported that vitamin K2 significantly suppressed tumor growth in mice. (8)
4. Anxiety and Depression
If your blood glucose levels are high you are at risk of developing anxiety and depression.
A study in 2016 reported that when rats with high blood glucose levels and symptoms of anxiety and depression were given vitamin K2, 10 weeks later the glucose levels had normalized and symptoms of anxiety and depression were significantly lower. (8)
Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is very important to maintain optimal health. Even though the benefits of vitamin D are widely known many individuals do not get enough of it. Some widely known benefits of vitamin D are:
- Maintaining healthy bones
- Aiding your immune system
- Support healthy cardiovascular system
- May reduce the risk of many harmful diseases
People who have dark skin, older age, or not getting enough sun exposure should take special care in getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Even though more research is required before vitamin K supplements are deemed essential for everyone, significant health benefits due to consumption of vitamin K2 have been noted.
To support an optimal health, it is recommended to get adequate amounts of vitamin K from your diet.
- Team, T. (2020, April 07). 3 Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-vitamin-d
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Spritzler, F. (2018, July 23). 8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms
- Read “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D” at NAP.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.nap.edu/read/13050/chapter/7
- Vitamin D: Benefits, deficiency, sources, and dosage. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618
- Raman, R. (2017, October 08). What Vitamin D Dosage Is Best? Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-dosage
- Leech, J. (2018, September 21). Vitamin K2: Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-k2
- Vitamin K-2: Functions, sources, benefits, and deficiency symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325059
- DerSarkissian, C. (2020, July 22). Vitamin K: Uses, Deficiency, Dosage, Food Sources, and More. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/supplement-guide-vitamin-k
- Bruno EJ (2016) The Prevalence of Vitamin K Deficiency/Insufficiency, and Recommendations for Increased Intake. J Hum Nutr Food Sci 4(1): 1077.
- Weir EK, Thenappan T, Bhargava M, Chen Y. Does vitamin D deficiency increase the severity of COVID-19?. Clin Med (Lond). 2020;20(4):e107-e108. doi:10.7861/clinmed.2020-0301