Next time you’re outside, look up to that big ball of fire in the sky called the sun — it helps make the miracle micronutrient vitamin D. From increasing absorption of calcium, 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. Obtaining sufficient vitamin D whether from food sources (only about 10% comes from food), the sun, or supplements (the sun and supplements are the best sources), is important for everyone. However, men may have an inadequate vitamin D status and not know it.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is referred to as a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in fats and oils and can be stored in the body for a long time.
However, this sunshine vitamin is actually a prohormone. Prohormones are substances that the body converts to a hormone. In vitamin D’s case, 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 (especially during late fall/winter), reducing the body’s ability to synthesize it.
Whether vitamin D is obtained from food sources or the sun, it is inactive until it is modified by biochemical reactions in both the liver and the kidneys.
There are two main dietary forms of this vitamin 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.
Low Vitamin D Levels in Men
Vitamin D is critical for men. Many studies have found that vitamin D provides a variety of benefits, and why adequate levels of this fat-soluble vitamin are important.
Men can have low vitamin D levels for several reasons:
Obesity. Obese men, or men with a higher body fat, often have lower vitamin D levels. Excess fat cells absorb vitamin D, keeping it from circulating throughout the bloodstream.
Aging. As men get older, absorbing and synthesizing vitamin D becomes difficult:
- The body is less able to absorb vitamin D from food sources.
- Production of vitamin D in the skin decreases.
- The kidneys are not as efficient in converting vitamin D to its active form.
Where they live. For men living in northern parts of the U.S., the amount of vitamin D made from sunlight exposure from November to February is small. The sun is just not at the right angle to get the UV light necessary to synthesize or make vitamin D in the skin.
How Vitamin D Benefits Men’s Health
While women will also benefit significantly by obtaining sufficient vitamin D, there are specific circumstances in which vitamin D benefits men’s health. Here are 5 reasons:
- 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.
- Vitamin D protects heart health
Vitamin D is 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, which allows blood to flow freely, decreasing the risk for dangerous clots.
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 reduce their risk for hypertension, thus reducing their risk for a heart attack or stroke.
According to a recent study, a lack of vitamin D in the body can be a strong predictor of who will get diabetes. Study participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D were at the highest risk for diabetes. Men with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
- 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 severe erectile dysfunction (ED). In another study of young men, those 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 are important factors of the erectile response.
- Vitamin D may reduce prostate cancer risk
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. In addition, research shows 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 risk.
Men living in southern latitudes with year-round access to healthy levels of the sunshine vitamin tend to have less aggressive cancers and lower rates of death from prostate cancer.
While the possibility that vitamin D may reduce prostate cancer risk is promising, it should be noted that most of the studies looking at vitamin D and prostate cancer have been observational. This means more research is needed to determine the potential effect of vitamin D in preventing, treating, or managing prostate cancer.
In the meantime, it only makes sense for men to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D to reap all of its benefits.
- Vitamin D and weight loss
For men struggling to lose belly fat, a vitamin D supplement may be beneficial. Research has shown that individuals deficient in vitamin D may have a higher risk for obesity.
That’s why an Italian study wanted to find out if vitamin D supplementation might help with weight loss. The scientists divided participants into three 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 who did not take a vitamin D supplement.
The link between vitamin D and weight loss is not clearly understood. 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 day will provide 10,000 IUs of vitamin D.
- 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. If considering taking over-the-counter maintenance vitamin D, it’s recommended to take 400 to 5000 IU daily. Buy vitamin D3 as it raises blood levels of vitamin D more than vitamin D2.
- Consume foods rich in vitamin D. There are very few natural or fortified 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. 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 oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.
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