The coronavirus global pandemic has turned certain nutrients into “rock star” status, not for the prevention of the virus but rather treating it successfully in minimizing Covid-19 symptoms if a person contracts it. One of these rock star nutrients is vitamin D. And this is especially true for men.
Men, take note – the topic of vitamin D has been in the news, hotly debated, spiking the interest of people wanting to keep themselves healthy during this time of Covid-19. While studies have shown mixed reviews of whether vitamin D makes a meaningful difference in shortening the length or severity of Covid-19 illness, what is known is this fat-soluble vitamin still plays a significant role in men’s health.
That’s why men, who obtain sufficient vitamin D whether from food sources, the sun or supplements, are doing their health a tremendous favor justifying why they should not take for granted this vitamin nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin.”
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 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 normal prostate size, critical for helping prevent both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can help control levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). A deficiency of vitamin D may also increase the 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 to 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, 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, mushrooms 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 the need for a vitamin D supplement.