It’s time to shine a light on the miracle micronutrient – vitamin D. From increasing absorption of calcium to helping build strong bones to boosting immunity, vitamin D is a man’s best friend for many reasons.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the topic of vitamin D has been hotly debated spiking 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. However, men will especially want to take note of making sure their vitamin D status is adequate.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. Fat-soluble means it dissolves in fats and oils and can be stored in the body for a long time.
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.
There are two main dietary forms that exist:
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) found in some animal foods like fatty fish (salmon and tuna) and egg yolks
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) found in some plants such as mushrooms and yeasts
Of the two, vitamin D3 is almost twice as effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin D as D2 is.
Low vitamin D levels in men
Vitamin D is critical for men as more and more studies have come out showing the various benefits vitamin D provides and why adequate levels of this fat-soluble vitamin are important.
Men can have low vitamin D levels for several reasons:
- Obesity – Men who are obese or have more body fat often have lower vitamin D levels because fat cells absorb vitamin D and keep it from circulating throughout the bloodstream.
- As men age, less vitamin D is absorbed from dietary sources and our bodies produce less vitamin D in their skin from the sun.
- If a man lives above the 42nd parallel – from Chicago or Boston north – the months of November through February do not produce sufficient vitamin D even on a sunny day.
5 Ways Vitamin D benefits men’s health
While women will also benefit significantly by obtaining sufficient vitamin D, there specific circumstances why vitamin D benefits men’s health. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Vitamin D boosts testosterone
Increasing vitamin D stores may boost testosterone as well as improve the quality of a man’s sperm. One study found a link between vitamin D deficiency and low testosterone. Men who spend more time outdoors have higher vitamin D levels along with increased testosterone levels. These same men in the study, who took 3,300 IU (International Units) of vitamin D daily, doubled their vitamin D levels and increased their testosterone levels by 20%.
When testosterone levels are adequate, men will have improved muscle-building potential, increased fat loss, improved sex drive, and increased fertility.
2. Vitamin D protects heart health
Vitamin D is sort of a jack-of-all-trades. And now it looks like the “sunshine vitamin” may also keep a man’s heart healthy and strong. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American men and vitamin D may be an important nutrient not to ignore.
A report from Italy found people with low vitamin D levels have a higher risk for stroke. Vitamin D improves blood vessel linings allowing blood to flow freely by reducing the harmful effects of inflammation.
Another study found that vitamin D3 can repair damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by high blood pressure. Research has also found that low levels of vitamin D have been linked to high blood pressure. Men who take a vitamin D supplement can help to reduce their risk thus reducing their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
For men with type 2 diabetes who are at a greater risk for a heart attack or stroke, a lack of vitamin D in the body can be a strong predictor of who will get diabetes. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were at the highest risk.
3. Vitamin D helps with erectile dysfunction
This benefit should get men’s attention: A 2020 meta-analysis found a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and severed erectile dysfunction (ED). Another study of young men with low vitamin D status had worse ED.
It is not certain what the relationship is between vitamin D and ED but it may help reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, or stimulate nitric oxide production, which is an important part of the erectile response.
4. Vitamin D may reduce prostate cancer risk
Men, there may be a link between vitamin D and prostate cancer, the second most common cancer of men in the U.S.
Research has shown that men with the lowest levels of vitamin D had the highest risk of developing prostate cancer. In addition, men already diagnosed with this disease tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. It’s also been found that men living in northerly-latitude areas where the sun’s angle in the sky stays low preventing the body’s ability to make vitamin D during winter months, have higher prostate cancer risks.
Men living in southern latitudes with year-round access of healthy levels of the sunshine vitamin, tend to have less aggressive cancers and lower rates of death from prostate cancer.
While it is exciting to learn the possibility of vitamin D may reduce prostate cancer risk, it should be noted that most of the studies looking at vitamin D and prostate cancer have been observational. This means more research needs to be done to determine the potential effect of vitamin D in preventing, treating, or managing prostate cancer.
In the meantime, men should embrace the overall health benefits of vitamin D as it only makes sense to maintain healthy levels of it.
5. Vitamin D and weight loss
For men struggling to lose belly fat, a vitamin D supplement may be beneficial. There has been research showing that individuals deficient in vitamin D may have a higher risk of obesity.
That’s why an Italian study wanted to find out if vitamin D supplementation might help with weight loss. The scientists with the study divided participants into 3 groups. Group one took no vitamin D supplement, group two took 25,000 IU of vitamin D monthly and group three took 100,000 IU of vitamin D monthly. After six months, the two groups who were taking supplements lost more weight and had significantly less belly fat than the group that took no supplements.
It is not clearly understood if there is a link or correlation between vitamin D and weight loss. However, there are several theories. Some studies suggest that vitamin D could reduce the formation of new cells or suppress fat cell storage. Vitamin D also increases levels of serotonin, which plays a crucial role in controlling appetite.
Top ways men can get enough vitamin D
- Get midday sun exposure (without sunscreen) for 15-30 minutes in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much skin as possible. Spending 20-30 minutes outdoors on a sunny, mid-day, summer day will provide 10,000 IU.
- Take a vitamin D supplement year round – talk to your healthcare provider or a pharmacist on their recommendation depending on your age. For men who are deficient in vitamin D, a prescription strength vitamin D pill is 50,000 IU once weekly, short-term to correct the deficiency. Over the counter maintenance vitamin pills it’s recommended to take 400-5000 IU daily. Buy vitamin D3 as it raises blood levels of vitamin D more than vitamin D2.
- Consume foods with vitamin D. There are very few food sources of vitamin D, making it hard to get enough from food alone. Some food sources of vitamin D include:
- Salmon – 3 ounces – 794 IU
- Portabella mushrooms, exposed to ultraviolet light – ½ cup – 488 IU
- Mackerel – 3 ounces – 388 IU
- Tuna, canned in water – 3 ounces – 154 IU
- Milk with vitamin D – 8 ounces – 115-124 IU
- Fortified orange juice – 8 ounces – 100 IU
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.