Vitamin D from the Sun is More Potent than…
0:00 – Intro
1:01 – Join Thrive Market Today to get 30% Off Your First Order AND a Free Gift Worth up to $60!
1:55 – How Sun Exposure Increases Vitamin D Levels
3:02 – Vitamin D from the Sun vs Food or Supplements
6:22 – So, Can You Load Up (and store) Vitamin D From the Sun?
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Many of us are interested in the crucial role vitamin D plays in strengthening the immune system. We want to make sure we are getting the Vitamin D we need.
What is the best way to do this?
Should we grab a beach towel and lay out in the sun, or is a supplement better?
Let’s dive in.
Vitamin D basics
The body needs vitamin D. It’s a fat soluble vitamin that helps us absorb calcium from the intestines. The body’s ability to utilize calcium from vitamin D plays a big role in bone density and bone health, which we covered previously in this post.
There are two types of vitamin D we can take in supplemental form – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. D2 is derived from plants and is vegan friendly, whereas vitamin D3 supplements are usually animal derived.
Both D2 and D3 “work” as supplements because both forms of vitamin D help the body make calcitrol, the bioactive form of vitamin D produced when UVB light hits the skin and interacts with cholesterol. 1
The foods we eat contain some vitamin D, but often not enough for many Americans to avoid vitamin D deficiency, which is estimated to occur in 41% of the population and is thought to be particularly acute in African American populations. 2
Sun derived vitamin D vs. supplements
According to Yale Medicine, vitamin D derived from sunlight is no better than the Vitamin D we get from supplements. They are functionally the same and can both boost vitamin D levels to a healthy range.
The body can use supplemental and sunlight derived vitamin D in exactly the same way. The benefit of supplements is that they reduce the risk of skin cancer from an excess of sun exposure. Not all of us have the complexion for sustained time outdoors.
However, the fact remains that under “natural” circumstances, vitamin D is mainly obtained through exposure to sunlight, where it is generated by the cells of the skin.
This study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 1993, looked at the impact of vitamin D levels from UVB light exposure vs. vitamin D2 supplements.
The study is small, so we can’t draw too many conclusions, but there is evidence indicating that the vitamin D we get from sunlight stays active in the body longer than the vitamin D we get from supplement form.
The authors studied vitamin D transport from the skin in 7 healthy volunteers. Effectively, subjects were placed in tanning beds with strong UVB light. Blood samples were then taken after exposure. In the subjects placed in tanning beds, vitamin D had gone up 10 hours after their session, and it peaked 24 hours later. The vitamin d levels in the tanning bed subjects stayed high for 7 days.
Note: tanning beds increase risk for skin cancer, they are not the best way to get vitamin D and should be avoided.
3 volunteers who ingested a 1.25 mg dose of vitamin D2 (a normal dose, not a mega-dose) also saw an immediate increase in vitamin D levels. The increase in vitamin D was much higher in the supplement group, but the levels of vitamin D didn’t stay high in their plasma for nearly as long as the simulated sunlight group.
The liver releases vitamin D from sunlight on different proteins than supplemental vitamin D. Supplemental vitamin D gets carried on little “fat taxis” known as chylomicrons and lipoproteins, by contrast, sun derived vitamin D travels more slowly via a special carrier protein called vitamin D binding protein (DBP).
Supplement vitamin D – carried on lipoproteins – fast acting but quickly cleared.
Sun synthesized vitamin D – carried almost exclusively on DBP – slow but sustained increase and release.
It was assumed that dietary or supplementary vitamin D was carried in the same fashion, via the DBP protein. However, new research has shown ingested vitamin D in supplement form is preferentially carried by various chylomicrons and lipoproteins, allowing it to pass from the stomach into the blood supply quickly. 3 4
Interestingly, it seems that when vitamin D binds with lipoproteins it is much more readily used, whereas when associated primarily with DBP it demonstrates a much longer lasting effect. 1
So, for our purposes here, we see that vitamin D derived from sun exposure causes a smaller spike, but lasts longer in our systems than does supplemental vitamin D. By contrast, supplemental vitamin D offers a more immediate boost, but its association with lipoproteins rather than DBP causes the body to clear it faster.
The vitamin D we receive from supplements is no different than the vitamin D our skin makes when exposed to sunlight, however, the source of vitamin D can affect how long the vitamin D stays active in our systems.
Those supplementing with vitamin D may be better off with consistent small daily doses so as to keep levels in a healthy range.
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Doctors tell you what you need to know about vitamin D. What they have to say may surprise you.
You may have heard every vitamin D myth under the sun—so many, in fact, that you might be at the point of throwing your hands up in the air in frustration. Why can’t there be a simple answer?
First, some facts: Your body needs vitamin D.
Its main job is to help the body absorb calcium from the intestines. This calcium is necessary to help “mineralize the skeleton” over the course of your lifetime and is a critical mineral for forming the hardened bone that keeps you strong and healthy.
On the other hand, “not getting enough Vitamin D can have serious consequences, including increased rates of bone loss or even osteomalacia (‘soft bones’) in adults and rickets (a deforming bone disorder) in children,” says Yale Medicine endocrinologist Karl Insogna, MD, director of the Yale Medicine’s Bone Center.
How do you get vitamin D?
The short answer is from food, the sun or supplements.
There are two main kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 and vitamin D3—which you can get from (and occur naturally in) certain foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel and beef liver and egg yolks. But because we don’t consume large enough quantities of these foods, they can’t be our sole source of vitamin D. That’s why foods like milk, cereal and some orange juices are vitamin D2- and D3-fortified. (Since the 1930s, manufacturers have voluntarily enriched these foods with vitamin D to help reduce the incidence of nutritional rickets.)
When exposed to the sun, your skin can manufacture its own vitamin D. “We each have vitamin D receptor cells that, through a chain of reactions starting with conversion of cholesterol in the skin, produce vitamin D3 when they’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) from the sun,” says Yale Medicine dermatologist David J. Leffell, MD, chief of Dermatologic Surgery.
Another avenue to get vitamin D is by taking supplements. These come in both pill and liquid form. They are generally recommended for people with fat absorption issues, lactose intolerance, milk allergies, as well as for people with darker skin tones or with certain medical conditions that prevent them from going outdoors.
How does the body process vitamin D?
After vitamin D is absorbed through the skin or acquired from food or supplements, it gets stored in the body’s fat cells. Here it remains inactive until it’s needed. Through a process called hydroxylation, the liver and kidneys turn the stored vitamin D into the active form the body needs (called calcitriol). In case you were wondering, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting D2 or D3, and the sunlight-generated kind isn’t better than the nutritional variety. “The body can use each perfectly fine,” says Dr. Insogna.
Those are the basic facts, but some questions might remain: How should you get vitamin D? How much should you get and when should you worry about your levels? In light of these common questions, our Yale Medicine doctors help clear up some confusion about vitamin D, separating fact from fiction.
The more vitamin D you take, the better? Absolutely not.
—Thomas Carpenter, MD, Yale Medicine pediatric endocrinologist and director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Center for X-Linked Hypophosphatemia
That’s a misconception. Vitamin D is stored in fat. So, if you’re a small person and getting large doses, you have less available storage, which means vitamin D goes into your blood and you may absorb too much calcium, creating a toxic situation. And it’s unclear how long you have until you exceed the upper limits of vitamin D intake before it becomes dangerous. (Modest increases above the RDA are not likely to cause harm.)
Just recently, I treated an infant whose blood vitamin D level was in the hundreds when it should have been between 20 and 50 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL). The child, who developed high blood calcium (hypercalcemia), had to be hospitalized and treated with several types of medications to get the calcium levels down to normal levels.
You can now get 50,000 IU tablets over the counter. There are patients with specific issues who might need a prescription for high levels of vitamin D, but for most people, that amount will raise your vitamin D level too high.
When shopping for supplements, always look for ones that offer the daily recommended allowance (RDA) you need for your age bracket: For most healthy people, it’s 600 IU per day, but for people over age 70 who need a little more—it’s about 800 IU. That’s because, as people age (women after menopause, in particular), they less efficiently synthesize vitamin D and absorb calcium. Babies should be getting smaller amounts in their first year of life, between 200 and 400 IU.
Should everyone get their vitamin D levels checked? Generally, no.
—Karl Insogna, MD, director of Yale Medicine’s Bone Center
Most people should be fine. Testing is important only for certain populations: for people who are institutionalized; for patients with a gastrointestinal disorder (like inflammatory bowel disease) or osteoporosis; those who have had weight loss surgery; those on anti-convulsant medications; and children who are immobilized and not outside and active. If you’re over 70, I recommend getting your levels checked at least one time.
People whose cultural or religious beliefs require them to be fully clothed, especially if they’re living in northern climates, and whose dietary habits include little or no dairy (which is vitamin-D-fortified), may also be vitamin D-deficient and should be tested.
Is vitamin D deficiency an epidemic? No, it’s not.
—Thomas Carpenter, MD, Yale Medicine pediatric endocrinologist and director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Center for X-Linked Hypophosphatemia
Based on the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and National Health and Nutrition Surveys (and using 20ng/mL as the lower limit), the bulk of the population is not vitamin D-deficient. The population we tend to see vitamin D deficiency in—and it’s typically in wintertime—are breastfed infants. Breast milk doesn’t have much vitamin D in it. That’s what spurred a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that every breastfed infant be given vitamin D (if they’re being given liquid multivitamin drops, they’re getting enough of it). But if infants aren’t given multivitamin drops, they need to be given 200 IU a day of vitamin D for the first two months of life and 400 units a day afterwards until they’re drinking formula or milk, which are each fortified with vitamin D.
Is it best to get your vitamin D from the sun? Definitely not!
—David J. Leffell, MD, Yale Medicine dermatologist and chief of Dermatologic Surgery
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in dermatology and in the world of skin cancer prevention has been a lot of misinformation about vitamin D metabolism.
There are claims that one needs to get a certain amount of sun exposure every day in order to produce enough vitamin D to be healthy. It’s just not true.
The majority of people can get their vitamin D from nutritional supplements and from vitamin D-fortified foods.
There are some people (who are typically not dermatologists or experts in the biology of skin cancer) who have advocated for tanning to get vitamin D. But we know that UVB light causes skin cancer and that protecting yourself against it makes sense. As a doctor who treats patients who have melanomas, I want the general public to be advised that under no circumstances can use of a tanning bed or tanning in general be justified on the basis of vitamin D. Take a supplement instead.
The final verdict on vitamin D
No bones about it, the endocrinologists we interviewed agree with our dermatologist.
“Just being outdoors, you get a fair amount of sun exposure and some sun-related generation of vitamin D,” says Dr. Insogna. “Because skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can be such a devastating disease, it’s best to use sunblock when outdoors in strong sunlight for any prolonged length of time. Because this may limit the amount of vitamin D you get from sun exposure, make sure your diet includes sources of vitamin D from foods or supplements,” he says.
Both your skin and your bones will thank you.
THOMAS DELAUER’s THOUGHTS
It’s funny because when we look at Vitamin D, we usually think of it as a one-time thing.
We don’t think about how long it lasts in our system or how to store it. Recently, I realized that I need to get my Vitamin D for today, so I go out and walk for half an hour or eat some eggs. I supplement with Vitamin D, but we don’t consider how long something lasts. Cholesterol converts to Ubiquinone in the skin after its synthesis from 7-dehydrocholesterol. Ubiquinone is a potent electron. The 7- Pro Vitamin D then gets converted into pre-vitamin D. Then, this pre-vitamin D gets acted upon by isomers. It becomes thermodynamically stable and enters into the capillary bed. It can bind to a Vitamin D-binding protein. , It then travels to the liver and gets converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
This is the circulatory form of vitamin D. When it’s ready to get called into action. It gets converted by the kidneys into two five hydroxy vitamins D. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole right now. The point is that’s how the conversion process happens. So, when you look at consuming vitamin D via food or supplement, a possible sort of diffusion occurs.
You don’t get as much vitamin D. There are some data to back it up.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation published a study that demonstrated that when you get vitamin D from the sun, 100% of that vitamin D binds to the vitamin D binding protein. So, the vitamin D binding protein is like a rate-limiting step. , If the vitamin D can’t bind to the D-binding protein, it can never get converted into the circulatory form of vitamin D that we need to function in our body.
So, 100% of the vitamin D from the sun will bind to the de-binding protein when you look at it orally ingested. And this could be food, and it could be a supplement if it’s orally ingested. Not saying getting it from food is terrible. I always recommend getting vitamin D from food and the sun.
Suppose you need help getting to where you need to be from that supplement. But either way, food or supplement ingested orally ends up binding to cliomicron transporters. These cliomicrons go into the lymphatic system. They travel around the lymphatic system and get dropped at the subclavian vein.
At this point, they will bind to the vitamin D-binding protein. However, only 60 The other 40 percent bind to lipoprotein and are discarded. So you have 60 percent efficiency versus 100 percent efficiency. If you were to take a supplement form, you could go high amounts. This would supersede the fact that you don’t absorb as well. Right.
So you could say, “Screwed. I’m going to take 5000 or 10 000 IUS because I know I only absorb 60% of it, so I’ll take more. ” That is the plus side to synthetic, but it is a synthetic vitamin D, which we need to factor in.
Getting Vitamin D from the sun is more interesting than previously thought.
Not only is the efficiency of the Vitamin D binding protein better, but it also has a more sustained release. This can be partially about the vitamin D-bound protein, or it might be because pre-vitamin D reaches it during eight hours when exposed to the sun. This slow and steady absorption could allow people to load up on Vitamin D more than was previously thought possible.
But it’s safer to look at a Short-term one-week forecast right if It’s winter time and you have one or two days to get some sun. Soak up As much as you can because it has a carryover effect for a couple Of days. Whereas if you take it in a Supplemental form, it’s an acute Spike.
And there are Central drawbacks to having A synthetic form of vitamin D. So now, of course, there are use cases for that, and I’ve covered that in other videos, but a Long story short is that yes, if you see the sun on the forecast make a concerted effort to soak up as much as you can. And Then, in the following days, get your vitamin D from food sources. If It’s Going to be longer than a week of Really no sun, then you can start looking At supplemental vitamin D but start with Like 1000 IUS two thousand IUS and try To do as much as possible.
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