One of the main reasons we need vitamin D3 is for healthy bones and joints

It helps the body to absorb calcium and maintain optimum phosphorus levels in the blood, which we need for building strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps strengthen the muscles around joints. A third action is its support of the immune system. This is particularly significant for rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease.

Vitamin D is needed for regulating insulin levels, and research in recent years has also drawn a link between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and autism. Vitamin D deficiency may be linked with depression, which may be why many of us experience the ‘winter blues’ – we are literally deficient in sunlight. It’s also essential for the healthy functioning of the lungs.

Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is actually not strictly a vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients the body can’t manufacture and has to get from external sources. Vitamin D is made by the body, but requires photosynthesis from direct sunlight to do this. Many people don’t get enough sun-skin contact, for a multitude of reasons. It may be that you don’t spend enough time outdoors, or there aren’t enough hours of daylight, especially in winter months, or because you cover yourself in sunscreen to block out the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which also prevents vitamin D from being produced.


Two types of vitamin D

There are two types of vitamin D – vitamin D2 (vegetarian) and vitamin D3 (from animal oils). Vitamin D3 is more absorbable and beneficial. The vitamin D our body makes is cholecalciferol, which is vitamin D3. Our bodies are able to convert some of the D2 we consume, but uses D3 much more efficiently.

There are small amounts of vitamin D in some foods – fatty fish being the only significant food source of D3. Sometimes vitamin D is added to foods such as fortified milks or cereals, but this is often D2. Many of us don’t get enough sunlight, and it’s hard to get enough vitamin D from your food, so a supplement is your other option.


Rheumatoid arthritis

The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D3 can help with both, however its immune supporting activity means it’s particularly important for rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune inflammatory disease, typically affecting the hands and feet. There is no known cure, and it’s not clear exactly what causes the onset of RA. The immune system attacks the joints, resulting in inflammation and thickening of the joints, causing pain and stiffness.

The latest research indicates that vitamin D3 may play a significant role in preventing and reversing rheumatoid arthritis. This is due to the double action of vitamin D in strengthening bone and muscles, at the same time as boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation.

A new study in India, published early this year, involved a trial of 50 volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis and 50 healthy subjects, all aged between 18-75 years. Vitamin D3 levels were assessed at different stages of the disease and vitamin D deficiency was found to be more common in RA patients. Researchers concluded that it may be one of the causes of the disease.

Scientists in the UK have been looking at vitamin D as part of a possible new treatment for RA. “There is currently no known cure for RA, and current treatments involve…global immunosuppression, which can be associated with numerous side effects,” warn the authors of a study published in 2016. They advise that new treatments should be aimed at targeting specific antigens, “leaving immunogenic responses to pathogen‐derived antigens and cancer immunity intact.” The study set out to establish whether the body can be prompted to generate cells that inhibit the growth of certain pro-inflammatory proteins, using dexamethasone and vitamin D3. These inflammatory proteins are thought to be at the root of the disease. The results of this experimental immunotherapy research showed a promising path for the treatment of RA.


Bone density

Other research has delved into the importance of vitamin D in preserving bone density, which is significant for osteoporosis, as well as osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.

A study published last year investigated the benefits of vitamin D3 supplementation to improve spine bone density in young people with HIV. The study involved 16-24 year old volunteers who were taking TDF medication for HIV, which decreases bone density. They were split into two groups, one taking a placebo plus multivitamin and the other taking a high dose of vitamin D3 plus multivitamin. Researchers found that spinal bone density increased for those supplemented with Vitamin D3 plus multivitamin, but not in the placebo group, who were also taking a multivitamin.

The University of Melbourne also published a study last year, in which a vitamin D supplement (at a higher dose than standard dietary intake) was administered to mice. Bone density was recorded after four weeks of supplementation, and the results indicated supplementation in adolescents may improve bone density in later life, thus preventing osteoporosis.

So, vitamin D3 is clearly one of the secrets to maintaining strong, healthy bones and joints. Bone health becomes an increasing concern as we age and is one of the key aspects of maintaining mobility and energy in later life. Vitamin D’s added benefits in helping fight other diseases and signs of aging make it one of the important nutrients for longevity and quality of life. You’ll find the maximum daily dose of Vitamin D in Lester’s Oil.

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