How vitamin D illuminates men’s health
Men, take note – the topic of vitamin D is hotly debated and has spiked the interest of people wanting to keep themselves healthy. Obtaining sufficient vitamin D whether from food sources, the sun or supplements, is important for everyone but for men there are many reasons why the “sunshine vitamin” is one not to ignore.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It is known as the sunshine vitamin because it can be made in the skin with exposure to ultraviolet light. Because vitamin D can be made in the body, it is essential in the diet only when exposure to sunlight is limited or the body’s ability to synthesize it is reduced. Whether vitamin D is obtained from food sources or the sun, it is inactive until it is modified by biochemical reactions in the both the liver and the kidneys.
Vitamin D has many important functions in the body including:
· Mineralization of bones and teeth
· Absorption of calcium and phosphorus
· Cell differentiation
· Blood pressure regulation
Testing for vitamin D status
Vitamin D status is checked with a blood test called a 25(OH)D blood test. This can be done at a doctor’s office and it will show whether a person is getting enough vitamin D or not and if they need to take a supplement or not.
Depending on what organization you trust more on the results of this test and what your physician recommends, the ranges of vitamin D status vary as to whether a person is considered deficient, insufficient or sufficient in their vitamin D status:
If you go by the Vitamin D Council, they recommend the following:
Deficient – 0-30 ng/ml
Insufficient – 31-39 ng/ml
Sufficient – 40-80 ng/ml
Toxic - >150 ng/ml
The Endocrine Society follows and recommends these ranges:
Deficient – 0-20 ng/ml
Insufficient – 21-29 ng/ml
Sufficient – 30-100 ng/ml
What does a vitamin D do for men?
There are many important reasons why men should be aware of their vitamin D status. Here is what this multidimensional vitamin can do for them:
· Supports a healthy prostate – Vitamin D promotes overall prostate health and a normal prostate size, critical for helping prevent both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis. Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can help control levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). A deficiency of vitamin D may also increase risk of prostate cancer.
· Helps prevent erectile dysfunction – Adequate stores of vitamin D are associated with improved cardiovascular health which also benefits erectile functioning. Good blood flow is necessary to achieve an erection. Studies have found that a significant number of men with erectile dysfunction also had a vitamin D deficiency and that erectile dysfunction is more common among men with artery flow problems.
· Maintains bone health – One of the main roles of vitamin D is its ability to help your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, minerals necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. A person can be taking in lots of calcium and phosphorus, but without vitamin D, none of it will be absorbed.
· Promotes muscle strength and integrity – Vitamin D has demonstrated that it helps improve muscle remodeling as well as muscle strength and gait along with a reduced risk of falls. This is due to vitamin D’s direct impact on muscle cells.
· Protects brain function – To help maintain brain functions and memory, keep your vitamin D levels up. Lower intake of vitamin D has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there is evidence of the detrimental effects of a vitamin D deficiency on brain function.
· Keeps sperm healthy – To keep the little guys in great shape, get enough vitamin D. Optimal levels support male fertility by helping maintain a healthy sperm count and high quality semen.
· Weight management – Studies have shown that overweight and obese men who were deficient in vitamin D and who were placed on a high-dose supplement of vitamin D, had lost more weight and had a greater decrease in waist size than men who had not taken the supplements.
· Prevents chronic inflammation – Recent research suggests that low vitamin D may be a consequence of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is associated with serious health problems such as prostatitis, arthritis, and heart disease. By maintaining a healthful level of vitamin D, this could be beneficial in managing chronic inflammation.
Recommendations and sources of vitamin D
The current Institute of Medicine Guidelines for vitamin D is as follows:
· Infants 0-12 months – 400 IU (International Units)
· Children 1-13 years - 600 IU
· Adolescents 14-18 - 600 IU
· Adults 19-70 years - 600 IU
· Adults 71 or older - 800 IU
· Pregnancy - 600 IU
· Breastfeeding - 600 IU
Best sources of vitamin D include the following:
· Sunlight – Between 10-20 minutes of sun exposure on arms and legs or face 3 times weekly between 10 am to 3 pm.
· Best food sources: Salmon, sardines, tuna, egg yolks, vitamin D fortified orange juice, vitamin D fortified milk, and vitamin D fortified yogurt
· Vitamin D supplements
It’s best to consult with your physician on the amount to take if using a vitamin D supplement. Generally, most adults can safely take up to 2000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for maintenance. In the meantime, get adequate sun exposure, increase food sources of vitamin D and always discuss with your physician of the need for a vitamin D supplement.