By: Arielle Bennett, FNP-BC, CFMP, CNE
Although typically referred to as a vitamin, D functions more like a prohormone or hormone considering its role in multitudes of metabolic pathways and promotion of positive effects on immune, cardiovascular, endocrine, neurological, and skeletal health. Despite our knowledge that vitamin D deficiency alone increases overall mortality risk, it is well known that a large portion of the population suffers from critically low or suboptimal vitamin D levels. In clinical practice, I have not encountered one client who had an optimal level of vitamin D unless they were supplementing with it. Often times, people are surprised they have low levels despite being “sun lovers”. It is true that when exposed to ultraviolet-B, humans should synthesize pre-vitamin D in the liver; however, multiple barriers exist that inhibit this synthesis including air pollution, aging skin, darker skin tones, clothes, sunscreen, distance from the equator, and suboptimal liver function to name a few.
Vitamin D levels can be supported through safe sun exposure, naturally containing or fortified foods, and through supplementation. Effective digestion is crucial for proper absorption of Vitamin D and unfortunately, most Americans suffer from poor digestive health. There are several forms of vitamin D available for supplementation with ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) being the most common. Vitamin D2 is a synthetic form and a suboptimal choice due to its instability when storing and cooking. Another barrier to optimal vitamin D levels are our low expectations in the standard of care. The “reference ranges” stated on lab results from major US labs run from 30-100 ng/ml and most practitioners assume anywhere within this range is acceptable while experts in chemistry have discovered that functional levels should be around 60 ng/ml or higher to reduce risk of cancer, depression, autoimmunity, chronic brain diseases, infections, and cardiovascular disease.
Multiple studies related to vitamin D status and Covid-19 over the last two years found correlations with disease risk, severity, and mortality related to vitamin D status, yet, I have not heard one governing body or “health promoting” agency suggest people have their levels checked or supplement with this very safe, inexpensive, and effective nutrient. I hope that a silver lining we’ve gained over the last tumultuous two years is that we must be our own health advocates. Testing and optimizing your vitamin D levels is a simple way to enhance your health and reduce your risk of the many chronic diseases and acute infections that threaten the population. In addition to utilizing vitamin D3, I also recommend including K2 which helps to force calcium in the bones from the vessels where it could increase risk of calcification and cardiovascular disease. As with all BioAge Nutritionals™ supplements, our Ultra D3+K provides this combination to offering a holistic approach to nutritional support.