First things first: Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all. It’s a hormone.
That’s right, the so-called sunshine vitamin we’ve been striving (and often failing) to get in sufficient quantities from the sun, is even more crucial to our bodies than many of us had thought.
“It was only named vitamin D because it was discovered after vitamin A, B, and C,” says Dr. Kerri Masutto, a functional medicine expert and Lifeforce’s VP of Clinical Operations. “There are actually six different metabolites — including two main active ones — of this steroid hormone that we refer to as vitamin D, which is why it has so many dramatic effects across our entire body,” Dr. Masutto says.
You probably know vitamin D’s main job is to help maintain strong bones, but it’s also one of our body’s best multitaskers. “Vitamin D affects everything from our cardiovascular system, to our immune system, to the myelination of our nerve cells,” says Dr. Masutto. In other words: the process that allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells, protecting us against certain diseases, like multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D may also help lower your risk of developing an autoimmune disease, according to a recent study in The BMJ.
The Real Reasons We’re Deficient
Trouble is, most of us are lagging way behind in this essential hormone. It’s estimated that up to 40% of American adults are insufficient, and 6% are full-on deficient in vitamin D. And when you consider the multitude of systems vitamin D impacts, it’s no wonder we’re not operating at our best. (Learn your levels with the Lifeforce Diagnostic here.)
Add to that the reality that, “As we get older, we don't utilize the vitamin D from the sun as efficiently because our skin gets thinner, so it’s not a reliable way to improve levels,“ says Dr. Vinita Tandon, Lifeforce’s Medical Director and board certified endocrinologist. In fact, you’re only getting an estimated 50% of what your skin once absorbed in your earlier days. “Plus, factors like latitude, wearing sunscreen, seasonality, and time of day all add to the equation,” Dr. Tandon says.
And while you can find vitamin D in some foods, like fish and egg yolks, it’s impossible to get the daily recommended amount (600 IU for adults ages 19 to 70) through food alone. Unless you want to eat 16 egg yolks a day, which zero doctors would recommend.
The good news: a high-quality supplement can help.
A Deeper Dive Into Vitamin D
If you’re still hung up on the vitamin D misnomer, here’s another way to look at it. “It’s technically not a vitamin because our body can endogenously make it from within,” explains Dr. Masutto. So how do we make it exactly?
When you’re exposed to sunlight, the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in your skin cells, providing the energy needed for vitamin D synthesis to occur. This inactive form of vitamin D gets stored in your body’s fat cells until it’s needed. Then, through a process called hydroxylation, the liver and kidneys turn those vitamin D stores into the active form you need, calcitriol. (And, in case you’re wondering, food undergoes this same process, too.)
“Once vitamin D is in its active form, then it can interact with many receptors across just about every cell in the body,” says Dr. Hector Lopez, Lifeforce’s Chief Research & Innovation Advisor and world expert in dietary supplement formulation and safety.
But remember when we said the sun and food sources may not be enough to reach optimal levels? “That’s when a good supplement will be your best bet,” says Dr. Tandon.
A Faster Way to Level Up
There’s just one catch — and that’s time. If you’re vitamin D deficient and you supplement your diet with 1000 IU every day, it will take between eight and 12 weeks to raise your levels by about 15 points, Dr. Lopez says.
That’s where Lifeforce’s Vitamin D+K nutraceutical has other supplements beat. Lifeforce D+K takes on average three to five weeks to improve your levels — in other words, it acts three times as fast.
How exactly? Lifeforce Vitamin D+K is the only supplement of its kind to feature ampli-DTM, one of the most bioavailable and bioactive forms of supplemental vitamin D, which bypasses the processing step in the liver, says Dr. Lopez. To become active, it just needs to be processed by the kidneys.
In addition to 2400 IU of vitamin D per serving, Lifeforce Vitamin D+K delivers 300 mg of vitamin K, which helps direct calcium into the bone and away from other tissues that you don’t want calcified, like blood vessels and kidneys, Dr. Lopez says.
Vitamin K comes in two forms, and Lifeforce Vitamin D+K delivers both. K1 is typically found in leafy green vegetables, while K2 can be found in meat and fermented foods. Lifeforce D+K features the purest, most active, and safest form of K2 called K2VITAL®, which brings additional benefits: It stays active longer in the body to promote healthy blood vessel elasticity and immune health, Dr. Lopez says.
A Better Bet for Your Body
So before you clear out the eggs section of the grocery store, or start baking under the sun like you’re back on spring break, do yourself a favor and opt for a little help from a research-backed supplement.
In each capsule of Lifeforce Vitamin D+K, you’ll get bioavailable and bioactive vitamin D, clinically proven to improve bone health, immunity, healthy lung function, and more.” This is different than just making sure you have enough vitamin C, for example,” says Dr. Masutto. “It’s about optimizing an important hormone pathway that should be monitored regularly.”
This article was medically reviewed by:
Kerri Masutto, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner
Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Endocrinology and Metabolism