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Also sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone that your body can produce naturally. There are a number of forms of vitamin D, but the two most important ones are vitamin D-2 and vitamin D-3. Vitamin D-3, also known as cholecalciferol, is made by your skin naturally. Your body needs D-3 for things such as calcium absorption and bone strength, and it contributes to your overall health as well.
Some studies suggest that vitamin D-3 supplements may help treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Because vitamin D-3 is made by your body when it is exposed to sunlight, the theory is that vitamin D-3 supplements may alleviate some of the symptoms associated with depression from low sunlight exposure during the colder months. However, studies are inconclusive about this, and the standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder remains light therapy.
- Some studies suggest that vitamin D-3 supplements may help treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
- However, studies are inconclusive about this, and the standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder remains light therapy.
Maintaining Calcium Levels
Vitamin D-3 helps your body absorb calcium, an essential mineral for the production of healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is especially important during infancy and adolescence, and poor calcium absorption can lead to low calcium levels and poor bone health and development. Over long periods of time, low levels of vitamin D-3 can result in osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D-3 helps your body absorb calcium, an essential mineral for the production of healthy bones and teeth.
- Calcium is especially important during infancy and adolescence, and poor calcium absorption can lead to low calcium levels and poor bone health and development.
Some lab and population studies have shown that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. However, these studies are not definitive, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the conclusions are still quite speculative 3. However, vitamin D-3 may help with reducing the liklihood of skin, breast and colon cancers, among several others.
Sources of Vitamin D-3
Cortisol Levels & Itchy Skin
In addition to obtaining vitamin D from sun exposure, you can get the vitamin from some food sources. Dairy products -- such as cheese, butter and fortified milk -- all contain vitamin D. Fatty fish and oysters are also sources of vitamin D, as well as fortified breakfast cereals. Just remember that getting your daily vitamin D requirement from sun exposure may be difficult. Depending on skin color, where you live and season of the year, you may need from 45 minutes to three hours per week of sun exposure to make enough vitamin D. The sunlight needs to reach your face, arms, back and legs without any sunscreen blocking the rays.
- In addition to obtaining vitamin D from sun exposure, you can get the vitamin from some food sources.
- Depending on skin color, where you live and season of the year, you may need from 45 minutes to three hours per week of sun exposure to make enough vitamin D. The sunlight needs to reach your face, arms, back and legs without any sunscreen blocking the rays.
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- Medical News Today: What Is Vitamin D?
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin D
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin D
- Holick MF, Gordon CM. Patient Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2011;96(7):1-2. doi:10.1210/jcem.96.7.zeg33a
- Sunyecz JA. The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(4):827-836. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s3552
- Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Hollis BW, Rimm EB. 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of myocardial infarction in men: a prospective study. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(11):1174-1180. doi:10.1001/archinte.168.11.1174
- Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, et al. Optimal vitamin D status for colorectal cancer prevention: a quantitative meta analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2007;32(3):210-216. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2006.11.004
- Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007;85(6):1586-1591. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.6.1586
- Prentice RL, Pettinger MB, Jackson RD, et al. Health risks and benefits from calcium and vitamin D supplementation: Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial and cohort study. Osteoporos Int. 2013;24(2):567-580. doi:10.1007/s00198-012-2224-2
- Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(5):1255-1260. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094
- Salehpour A, Hosseinpanah F, Shidfar F, et al. A 12-week double-blind randomized clinical trial of vitamin D₃ supplementation on body fat mass in healthy overweight and obese women. Nutr J. 2012;11:78. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-78
- Carrillo AE, Flynn MG, Pinkston C, et al. Impact of vitamin D supplementation during a resistance training intervention on body composition, muscle function, and glucose tolerance in overweight and obese adults. Clin Nutr. 2013;32(3):375-381. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2012.08.014
- Marcinowska-Suchowierska E, Kupisz-Urbańska M, Łukaszkiewicz J, Płudowski P, Jones G. Vitamin D Toxicity-A Clinical Perspective. Front Endocrinol. 2018;9:550. doi:10.3389/fendo.2018.00550
- Ross AC, Manson JE, Abrams SA, et al. The 2011 report on dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: what clinicians need to know. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(1):53-58. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2704
- Bouillon R, Van Schoor NM, Gielen E, et al. Optimal vitamin D status: a critical analysis on the basis of evidence-based medicine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(8):E1283-E1304. doi:10.1210/jc.2013-1195
- American Academy of Dermatology. Position Statement of Vitamin D. 2010.
- Taksler GB, Cutler DM, Giovannucci E, Keating NL. Vitamin D deficiency in minority populations. Public Health Nutr. 2015;18(3):379-391. doi:10.1017/S1368980014000457
- Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(7):1911-1930. doi:10.1210/jc.2011-0385
- Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, et al. Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006; 134:1129-40.
- Carrillo AE1, Flynn MG, Pinkston C, Markofski MM, Jiang Y, Donkin SS, Teegarden D. Impact of Vitamin D Supplementation During a Resistance Training Intervention on Body Composition, Muscle Function, and Glucose Tolerance in Overweight and Obese Adults. Clin Nutr. 2013 Jun;32(3):375-81. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.08.014. Epub 2012 Aug 31.
- Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA, Jr. Association Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169:384-90.
- Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Hollis BW, Rimm EB. 25-hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men: a Prospective Study. Arch Intern Med. 2008; 168:1174-80.
- Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, Grant WB, Mohr SB, Lipkin M, Newmark HL, Giovannucci E, Wei M, Holick MF. Optimal Vitamin D Status for Colorectal Cancer Prevention: a Quantitative Meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2007 Mar;32(3):210-6.
- Heaney, Robert P. “The Vitamin D Requirement in Health and Disease.” The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 97 (2005):13-9.
- Holick MF. Vitamin D. In: Shils M, Olson J, Shike M, Ross AC, ed. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1999.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center. Effectiveness and Safety of Vitamin D in Relation to Bone Health. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Aug 2007: 07-E013.
- Salehpour A1, Hosseinpanah F, Shidfar F, Vafa M, Razaghi M, Dehghani S, Hoshiarrad A, Gohari M. A 12-week Double-blind Randomized Clinical Trial of Vitamin D₃ Supplementation on Body Fat Mass in Healthy Overweight and Obese Women. Nutr J. 2012 Sep 22;11:78. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-78.
- Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation to Prevent Seasonal Influenza A in Schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 91:1255-60. Epub 2010 Mar 10.
- Wilkins, Consuelo H. and Yvette I. Sheline, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults.” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 14 (2006): 1032-40.
Bethany Lalonde has been a professional writer since 1997. She has published for CBS Health Watch, WebMD, the "Ann Arbor Daily News" and "Entertainment Weekly." She holds two masters degrees from the University of Michigan, in dietetics and nutrition as well as journalism.