You may have wondered whether you should be adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet, particularly with the lack of sunshine associated with gray, winter months.

Well, we have gathered the latest research concerning this molecule and we’ve summarized it for you in a clear and digestible way. Keep reading to clear up any doubts you may have about vitamin D and find the supplement that is right for you.

Key Facts

  • Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium and aids in the formation of a healthy skeleton. Our body is able to synthesize most vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
  • Other sources of vitamin D can be found in certain foods (like fish, and specific vegetables) and supplements.
  • A vitamin D deficiency will cause growth alterations in children (rickets). In adults, it will lead to osteoporosis and increase the risk of developing metabolic, cardiac or neurological diseases.

Ranking: The best vitamin D supplements on the market

There are hundreds of vitamin D supplements out there. The task of choosing the right one for you can take hours, if not days of research. We want to facilitate your task by choosing the best items for sale in the Canadian market. Check our “Ranking” to choose one of the best vitamin D supplements available to you.

No. 1: Jamieson, Vitamina D (tablets)

This Jamieson product contains 240 tablets of 1,000 IU of vitamin D. Although it does not contain sugar, gluten, and some of the most common allergens; it is important to note this supplement has animal content and it is not suitable for vegans.

Jamieson is a Canadian company leading the way to better industry standard by being early adopters of the cutting edge certification of TRU-ID. TRU-ID is DNA certification program which utilizes the latest in a DNA technology to trace active ingredients in supplements back to their specific botanical origins, thus certifying their authenticity.

No. 2: Webber Naturals, Vitamin D3 (tablets)

Webber Naturals’ supplements are made in the Okanagan Valley, BC. They look for the best raw materials for their supplements, while maintaining an emphasis on sustainability. They strive to reduce their environmental footprint by reducing waste and carbon emissions, among other initiatives.

With this product consumers noticed feeling less fatigued and a connection to improved mood. The strengthening of hair and nails was also a reported benefit. These capsules are small, tasteless and easy to swallow. Not recommended for vegans and celiacs since they contains soy, lactose and wheat.

No. 3: Ddrops®, 1,000 IU (drops)

Ddrops® is a 100% Canadian-owned and operated company. Seeking to provide a simple and better way to ingest vitamin D, they have designed an innovating form of intake, just one drop of their formula contains 1,000 IU of vitamin D, 100% of the recommended daily dose for adults.

Consumers have raved about this product. They find it easy to use and to transport. If you are looking for long term supplementation, this option is also very convenient as one small bottle contains enough drops to supplement for half a year.

No. 4: Nature’s Bounty, vitamin D3 (softgels)

Nature’s Bounty is a company with offices and distribution in The United States, Canada, The UK, The Netherlands, South Africa and New Zealand. Their international presence demonstrates their commitment to supporting wellness by creating products consumers want and making them easy to shop and available in internationally.

Buyers are satisfied with this product. They notice more energy and a decrease in the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. Moreover, the fast release softgels prove effective and easy to take. Unfortunately the capsules contain gelatine (not apt for vegans) and some allergens like soy.

No. 5: Whole Earth and Sea, Vitamin D (softgels)

It is difficult to find a quality vegan vitamin D supplement. Fortunately, Whole Earth & Sea’s Bioenhanced vitamin D3 is a new plant-based source of this essential nutrient, developed with vegans and vegetarians in mind. This supplement provides natural vitamin D in its most bioactive form, cholecalciferol.

Consumers have reported experiencing the benefits of increased energy and mood boosts. They have also rated it as the most affordable vegan supplement in the market.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vitamin D

Vitamin D supports the proper absorption of calcium in our bodies and keeps our skeleton healthy. It also intervenes in maintaining cardiovascular, neurological and metabolic health. Due to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and low-nutrient diets, up to 50% of the world’s population suffers from a vitamin D deficiency.

vitamin-d1

Vitamin D, also known as “sunshine vitamin” is essential to our wellbeing.(Source: Puhha: 54194400/ 123rf.com)

What is vitamin D exactly?

When we speak of “vitamins”, we are referring to a series of molecules that are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies. Normally, they are needed in small quantities and must be obtained directly through our diet. They regulate the functioning of different hormones and enzymes.

Vitamin D is a compound and its structure is derived from cholesterol. There are different types of vitamin D, ordered from 1 to 5. The human body is able to use vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). A supplement that carries in its labeling “vitamin D” includes some of these two molecules.

Vitamin D2 is found in foods derived from plants, while vitamin D3 appears in foods derived from animals. Our skin can synthesize cholecalciferol after sun exposure. For this reason, some scientists would prefer this molecule be considered a hormone instead of an essential vitamin.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is not only vital to our skeletal system. In recent decades scientists have discovered it’s role as regulators expands over a multitude of bodily processes. This molecule is essential to keeping our heart, brain and defences in good shape. Moreover, having higher levels of vitamin D has been linked to a lowering in the risk of some cancers, including colorectal, breast and colon cancers (Canadian Cancer Society, 2007).

This table is a summary of its main functions.

System Function
Skeletal Calcium absorption in the intestines. Replacing deteriorated bone with new bone.
Muscular Increased strength during muscular contraction.
Cardiovascular Arterial dialysis and a decrease in blood pressure.
Renal Regulation of the renal function. Regulation of calcium and phosphorus levels.
Reproductive Creation of sex hormones(testosterone and estrogen).
Inmune  Activation of the defense system. Regulation of autoimmunity.
Nervous  Protection of neurons. Mood Stabilizer.

We don’t yet understand all the mechanisms at play in the different functions of vitamin D in our bodies. Nonetheless, there is a great number of studies that relate it’s deficit to negative alterations in different organs. Therefore, we can assert this molecule is of immense value to our health.

How is vitamin D absorbed by my body?

Vitamin D is accessed by the body through food or it can also be synthesized after exposure to sunlight. This molecule is in inactive form and must undergo a series of reactions before the body can use it. The active form of vitamin D is a hormone known as calcitriol

Both the liver and kidney are key players in the activation process. Consult your doctor if you suffer from any condition that affects the function of these organs.

Your body could be unable to activate these molecules. In this case, the supplementation with vitamin D2 or D3 should be supervised by a professional

The most efficient way to ensure an optimal daily intake of vitamin D is sun exposure. If you prefer indoor activities or use sun protection that blocks UVB rays; consume foods rich in vitamin D. You can also add a supplement to your diet to ensure that your levels remain optimal.

foco

Did you know that vitamin D belongs to the group of “fat-soluble” vitamins and is stored in the fatty tissues of the body?

How does exposure to sunlight affect vitamin D levels?

As ultraviolet light hits the skin, a chemical reaction begins that transforms cholesterol into vitamin D3. B-type ultraviolet rays are involved in this process. Experts recommend daily exposure to sunlight for five to fifteen minutes. This time may vary depending on several factors.

Age and skin colour influence the rate of synthesis; the older the skin and the greater the pigmentation, the fewer cholecalciferol is created. The use of sunscreens that block the entry of UVB rays also affects the production of vitamin D. Living in areas with little sunlight, especially in winter, is another factor to consider.

Therefore, the time a person must be exposed to sunlight to achieve optimal levels of vitamin D varies. We recommend that you use a calculator to assess your exposure time.

If you cannot afford to spend so much time in the sun, consider using a supplement to complete your contribution of cholecalciferol.

What is the recommended dose of vitamin D?

The concentration of active vitamin D in the blood is measured in micrograms (μg) or nano-grams (ng). It is recommended to maintain active levels of this molecule above 30ng. The amount of vitamin D2 or D3 needed to obtain a suitable calcitriol concentration is estimated in International Units (IU):

Population group Recommended daily dose
Infants 0-6 months 400 IU
Babies 6-12 months 400 IU
Kids 1-3 years 600 IU
Niños 4-8 años 600 IU
Adolescentes 9-18 años 600 IU
Adults up to 65 years 1,000 IU
Senieors over 65 years 1,000 IU

As you can see, the recommended daily dose of vitamin D increases with age. Teenagers are in a growth phase and need this molecule to ensure strong bones. Adults and people over the age of 65 require high doses of vitamin D to keep muscles, bones and the immune system in good shape.

What foods are high in vitamin D?

Foods provide a lower amount of vitamin D compared to the production that happens at skin level. Even so, we can find true sources of this molecule in certain food groups. Cholecalciferol (D3) is found in foods of animal origin, while ergocalciferol (D2) will be abundant in foods of vegetable origin.

The foods with highest contents of vitamin D are those of animal origin. Blue fish, liver (chicken or veal) and egg yolk are rich in cholecalciferol. Vegetables are generally poor in vitamin D, so vegans should look for alternative sources. For example, some fungi species or fortified foods.

Food Type of vitamin D Approximate concentration (IU)
Cod liver oil (1 tbsp.) D3 500
Salmon (75 g) D3 350
Tuna D3 150
Sardines ( 75g) D3 145
Fortified vegetable drink (250 ml) D2 (vegan) 100
Egg yolk (unit) D3 45
fortified margarine (1 tbsp.) D2/D3 30

Vegans and vegetarians should keep in mind that ergocalciferol is less absorbed than the vitamin D of animal origin. Fortunately, today there are supplements and fortified foods that offer an extra supply of this molecule. For example, some fungal species contain up to 200 IU of vitamin D per 100 g.

vitamin-d2

Vitamin D regulates hormone production, especially insulin(Source: Baibakova: 61624754/ 123rf.com)

Who is at risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiencies?

Vitamin D deficiencies affect a large part of the world’s population. The most modest studies put this figure at 30%. Other experts say that up to 80% of people are lacking in calcitriol levels. A sedentary lifestyle and increased lack of exposure to sunlight are the main culprits for these high numbers.

The groups that are at a higher risk of suffering from a vitamin D deficiency are the following:

  • Adults over 55 years old: As age increases, the skin begins to lose its ability to synthesize cholecalciferol.
  • Office workers and students: They spend most of their time indoors and do not get enough exposure to natural sunlight.
  • People with darker skin: The increased amount of melanin in their skin makes it difficult to for their bodies to create vitamin D.
  • Vegans and vegetarians: Ergocalciferol is more difficult to absorb and use than the vitamin D of animal origin.
  • People who use sunscreen frequently: This product blocks UVB rays which in turn prevents the formation of the vitamin.
  • People with chronic intestinal diseases: Intestinal diseases hinder the assimilation of vitamin D in the digestive tract.

What are symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?

It is a well known fact that too much vitamin D causes alterations in bone metabolism. On the other hand, a lack of this molecule will create difficulties in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. This will result in the appearance of alterations in the functioning of the parathyroid gland and in the formation of new bone.

vitamin-d3

Students and office workers who spend a lot of time indoors can suffer from vitamin D deficiencies.(Source: Gstockstudio: 53684166/ 123rf.com)

Recent studies show vitamin D deficiencies are associated with an extensive array of negative symptoms. In some people it may begin as a subjective feeling of fatigue and drowsiness. Daily headaches that cannot be explained by another disease are also related to a lack of calcitriol.

Below, a list of unpleasant side effects that are related to low levels of vitamin D:

  • Onset osteoporosis, osteomalacia and rickets in children
  • Bone pain (especially in the lower back)
  • Muscle Aches
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue and drowsiness accompanied by headaches
  • Depression
  • Difficulty healing wounds
  • Hair loss and baldness
  • Dementia
  • Increase in the severity of autoimmune diseases
  • Possible increase in cancer risks

Who should be taking vitamin D supplements?

There is an ongoing debate about the need for vitamin D supplementation. It is estimated that 40-50% of people have some type of deficiency. Therefore, some experts advise to administer vitamin D to the entire population. Other sources recommend administering a supplement only to certain groups:

  • People over 55 years old
  • Vegans and strict veggetarians
  • People with darker skin, especially if they spend a lot of time indoors
  • Pregnant women (under medical supervision) and postmenopausal women
  • Teenagers who spend a lot of time indoors
  • Office workers, students or people who are not exposed to sunlight
  • Obese people
  • People who have had bariatric surgery
  • People with cardiovascular problems (hypertension, heart failure)
  • People with a diet poor in vitamin D for any reason
  • People with kidney failure
Dr. Miguel Sánchez VieraDirector of the Institute of Integral Dermatology

“The groups that most need this type of vitamin are actually those actively protecting themselves from the sun: like babies, seniors and pregnant women.”

Can I benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement?

Healthy levels of vitamin D have been associated with a decrease in mortality overall. Numerous studies have shown a lower incidence of osteoporosis, osteomalacia and rickets. Other benefits have emerged, closely related to the workings of calcitriol at a neuronal, muscular and cardiovascular level:

  • Improvement of strength and endurance
  • Subjective feeling of wellbeing
  • Lower incidence of infections (flu and colds)
  • Lower incidence of fatigue
  • Improvement of mood, relief from depression
  • Better control of blood pressure
  • Better control of autoimmune diseases (such as lupus)
  • Improvements in memory and concentration
  • Decreased BMI, abdominal perimeter and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)
  • Slowed progression of degenerative diseases (such as macular degeneration associated with age)

Is it possible to take too much vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble type of vitamin. This means that it is stored in the fatty tissues of the body and is difficult to remove. Therefore, it is possible to get intoxicated with vitamin D if it is consumed in excessive amounts. This would not happen with water-soluble vitamins, such as C, whose excess is immediately passed through urine.

It is recommended not to exceed 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. An excess of supplements or fortified foods will cause weakness, vomiting, renal colic and arterial calcifications. Sun exposure only creates the amount of vitamin needed and has never been linked to cholecalciferol poisoning.

Dr. Alejandro Ernesto MacíasMedical Doctor

“Intoxication from vitamin D is not common, becauase when there is an excess of it in the body, it stops producing it.”

What type of vitamin D supplements are there?

Over-the-counter vitamin D supplements contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). These compounds will be processed by your liver and kidneys to create the active form of this vitamin (calcitriol). Calcitriol is only available with a medical prescription, since it has an increased risk for intoxication.

  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): This molecule is found in products of animal origin and is synthesized in the skin after sun exposure. It is the most bioavailable form, and the main recommendation when choosing a product with vitamin D. It is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians due to its animal origin.
  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): This compound is found in fungi and foods of plant origin. Therefore, supplements with D2 are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. However, this form is assimilated and stored with less efficiency than vitamin D3. It is recommended to choose this type of supplement if a strict vegetarian/vegan diet is followed.

Why choose a vitamin D supplement and not just supplement calcium?

Some years ago it was advisable to link a calcium supplement to the diet of the elderly. This was especially true in the case of menopausal women at risk of bone injuries. Recently, excess calcium has begun to be associated with a paradoxical increase in fractures.

Excessive intake of calcium supplements leads to undesirable side effects, such as kidney stones and arterial calcifications. vitamin D helps with the formation of strong bones and is not as intensely associated to these unpleasant side effects. Proper nutrition will easily provide the necessary calcium.

Purchase Criteria

The search for the perfect supplement can be quite daunting and more often than not, it will leave you with more questions. To facilitate this task, we have gathered the most relevant purchasing factors when choosing a vitamin D supplement. Rate the following characteristics and make sure you find the product that best suits your needs:

  • Allergens
  • Pharmacological interactions
  • Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
  • Absorption capacity
  • Method of ingestion
  • Value for your money

Allergens

Unfortunately, vitamin D supplements can cause allergic reactions. Check the ingredients of the supplement of your choice, especially the excipients. You can often find traces of soy, corn or nuts. If you are not sure you are sensitive to a certain component, check with the manufacturer or your family doctor.

Pharmacological interactions

Vitamin D is capable of producing negative interactions with a large number of drugs. These interactions can make the effect of said drug more intense or less effective than expected.

Consult your doctor before using a vitamin D supplement if you use any of the following medication:

  • Chronic renal failure medication
  • Anti-epileptic medication
  • Lipid-lowering medication (medicine to lower cholesterol)
  • Psoriasis treatment medication
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Digoxin (antiarrhythmic treatment)
  • Anti-hypertension medication
  • Certain diuretics
  • Corticoids
  • Laxatives

Vegan or Vegetarian nutrition

If you have decided that you want to follow a strict vegetarian diet, pay special attention to your vitamin D supplements. vitamin D3 comes from animal sources such as blue fish oil and is not suitable for vegans. The supplements of D2 or ergocalciferol are the only ones with a 100% vegetable origin.

There are manufacturers who advertise their supplements as “vegan vitamin D3”. For example, a consulted company reports obtaining cholecalciferol from a lichen. It is difficult to ensure the truth of these statements, if you want to be sure that you consume a 100% vegan product, we recommend that you use ergocalciferol.

vitamin-d4

It is possible to take vitamin D in capsules. This formula is used primarily by adults.(Source: Puhhhar: 47895081/ 123rf.com)

Method of ingestion

When choosing the right supplement for you, it is important to choose a method of ingestion you are comfortable with. To obtain an adequate supply of vitamin D you must follow your treatment consistently. This will be much easier to accomplish if you choose a product that suits your preferences.

You can find vitamin D supplements in the form of:

  • Tablets: Are coated with an excipient that gives them better flavour and makes them easier to swallow.
  • Softgels: Facilitate the intake and make absorption faster. The cover is made of gelatine (or a vegan alternative).
  • Oral spray: Designed for those who have difficulty swallowing tablets. Spraying is recommended in the mouth, although there are people who use it on food with good results.
  • Drops: Just like the spray, these are a useful format for those with difficulty swallowing. The use of a dropper allows to accurately dose the amount of supplement ingested.
  • Chewables: Their nice taste and easy to chew consistency make them great not only for children, they are also a good option for people who can’t swallow pills well

Value for your money

There are containers that provide enough vitamin D for a whole year. If you need to supplement long-term, we advise leaning towards these products. They will mean a larger investment off the bat (roughly 8 CAD$ more than quarterly packaging), but you will save more in the long run.

Summary

Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin” gives us strength and vitality. Adequate vitamin D levels in childhood prevents rickets and in adults osteomalacia (soft bones). Nonetheless, our increasingly sedentary lifestyle puts us at greater risk of suffering from a deficiency of this very important molecule.

If you want strong bones, an active immune system and an agile mind, consider adding a vitamin D2 or D3 supplement to your diet.

We hope that our article has been useful in your journey to understanding this nutrient better. Use this information to choose the right supplement for you and get all the benefits of vitamin D. If you supplement consciously and responsibly, you can enjoy a full, active and happy life.

If you liked our guide on vitamin D, please leave a comment and share this article.
(Source of featured image: Songpracone: 53649602/ 123rf.com)

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