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What is Vitamin D3 and why do I need it?

Commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D3 is one of the main nutrients our body needs to function at its best.

This fat-soluble vitamin helps to strengthen our immune system and regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body to maintain the health of our bones, muscles and teeth.

Vitamin D supplements come in two forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol), with D3 being the natural and more bioavailable type compared to D2.

Where does Vitamin D3 come from?

Vitamin D3 can be obtained naturally through our diet but it mainly comes from exposure to sunlight. It’s why you may have heard that Vitamin D deficiencies are most common during the colder months of the year when we don’t have as much sun.

In colder areas of the UK such as Scotland, people are twice as likely than those in Southern parts of the UK to have low serum vitamin D levels, meaning they’re more susceptible to having a weakened immune system.

However, even in the summer when Vitamin D from the sun is most available, it’s estimated that 75% of the English population fail to reach the recommended level.

How much Vitamin D do I need?

The majority of adults and children are able to get enough Vitamin D through sunlight from the months of March to the end of September.

The NHS recommends that children from the age of 1 and adults (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) need 10 micrograms of Vitamin D3 from the sun day, which is the equivalent to 400 IU (International Units).

If you’re not able to get enough Vitamin D through sunlight or your diet, you may wish to supplement it through our high-strength Vitamin D3 algae-based supplements which contain 1,000 IU per softgel.

For Vitamin D-deficient adults and children ages 1 to 10 years, taking a Vitamin D3 supplement of 1,000-2,000 IU per day is completely safe, while infants can have up to 1,000 IU a day.

When giving Vitamin D supplements to young children, always ensure to split the softgel in half and pour into their food to help them easily swallow it.

How does the body make Vitamin D from sunlight?

When the skin is exposed to the sun's UVB rays, our bodies can synthesise Vitamin D3, which is the highly active form of Vitamin D. Sounds quite simple, right? Well, it’s actually quite a complex process, but certainly an interesting one!

The sun’s UVB (ultraviolet B) rays convert 7-DHC (a protein present in our skin) into pre-vitamin D3. Pre-vitamin D3 is biologically inert and requires its first hydroxylation (or conversion) in the liver before being further carried into the kidneys to form the biologically active form of Vitamin D known as 1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D3.

Sun in blue sky

Did you know? Sunscreen with an SPF of 8 and above blocks the production of Vitamin D from the sun.

While it’s essential for us to get enough Vitamin D from the sun, it’s important to be mindful of the risk of sun damage through too much exposure.

In the summer, it’s best recommended to get around 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight three times per week. Several studies have evidenced that dark skin tones needs more than this to synthesise the same amount of Vitamin D3, with anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours of sunlight being a general guideline.

Can you get enough Vitamin D just from your diet?

It’s true that you can get Vitamin D through your diet, but only in small amounts and not enough to reach the recommended levels.

In fact, few foods are actually high in Vitamin D3, and it’s especially harder for those following plant-based diets where there’s a further lack of Vitamin-D-rich foods. Plant-based sources of Vitamin D include mushrooms and fortified foods which have had Vitamin D added to them such as bread.

It’s why we highly recommend supplementing Vitamin D with our 100% plant-based Vitamin D3 softgels, sustainably sourced from algae grown away from the ocean.

What are the benefits of Vitamin D3?

Supports your immune system

Vitamin D3 is essential for the normal functioning of our immune system. An under-functioning immune system can make you more susceptible to colds and infections, while an over functioning immune system can cause you to develop auto-immune conditions.

The cells in our body are able to synthesise and respond to Vitamin D3, which in turn helps to support and modulate our innate and adaptive immune systems.If you seem to be constantly suffering from various coughs and colds, you may want to consider your Vitamin D levels – it may be the case that you are deficient and it’s affecting your immunity.

Maintains strong bones and muscles

Vitamin D3 increases intestinal calcium and phosphate absorption in the body which contributes to healthy bones and muscles. It gives our bones their strength and hardness while supporting the growth and development of our muscles.

Promotes healthy teeth

As our teeth are made of bone, Vitamin D3 is vital for good oral health, including our gums. Sufficient Vitamin D3 intake can lower your chances of developing dental problems by helping the body to absorb calcium and phosphate. This is because both of these are minerals crucial for building and maintaining strong tooth enamel.

What happens when you don’t get enough Vitamin D?

There is a well-established link between vitamin D deficiency and bone and muscle issues. When you don’t get enough Vitamin D, this can affect your body’s calcium metabolism, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children.

Large-scale studies in the 1990s indicated a reduction in hip fractures with calcium and vitamin D supplementation. One meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials found that supplementing 700 to 800 IU of Vitamin D led to a 26% reduced risk of hip fracture versus supplementing with calcium alone or placebo.

Are there certain foods which help with the absorption of Vitamin D3?

As Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, eating foods with a high fat content can help with the absorption rate. Foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados are among some of the best high-fat foods to take with your Vitamin D3 supplement.

Can Vitamin D3 supplements and Omega 3 supplements be taken together?

They absolutely can! Remember, Vitamin D3 is better absorbed by the body when taken with fats, so just like the foods mentioned above, Omega 3 essential fatty acids from Omega 3 supplements make for a great choice to take alongside D3.

The combination of Vitamin D and Omega 3 has played a part in many research papers. They're thought to help specifically with cardiovascular health, vision, brain function and immunity. Algae is the best source of Omega 3 and it naturally contains Vitamin D as well - you can therefore see how these two nutrients go together in nature!

What causes a Vitamin D3 deficiency?

Sometimes, it’s not always possible to get enough Vitamin D3 from our diet and safe sun exposure, which is why you may need to boost your intake through supplements such as our Algae Vitamin D3. A Vitamin D3 deficiency can be caused by a number of factors, with the most common reasons being:

Age: as the skin’s ability to naturally produce Vitamin D3 decreases with age, those over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of being deficient.

Diet: it's possible to get Vitamin D through your diet, but only in small amounts and not enough needed for good health. Few foods are high in Vitamin D3, and it’s especially difficult for those who follow a plant-based diet where there’s an even further lack of Vitamin-D-rich foods.

Skin tone: people with dark skin tones have more melanin than those with light skin tones. As melanin slows the skin’s ability to synthesise vitamin D from the sun, darker skin needs more exposure to achieve the recommended amount.

Environment: those who are homebound or spend a lot of time indoors such as office workers are more at risk of insufficient Vitamin D3 levels as they are not able to synthesise enough from the sun. Similarly, those who live in colder climates are more prone to being deficient, especially during winter.

Illness: people with certain illnesses such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease or obesity can struggle to get enough of Vitamin D3 as their body handles fat differently.

What are the signs of a Vitamin D3 deficiency?

  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Muscle weakness, muscle aches or muscle cramps
  • Bone loss

Supercharge your health all year round with our Algae Vitamin D3 supplements and enjoy the nourishing benefits of the sun and the sea, all in a softgel.