Vitamin D is a vital cog in a whole host of complex biological mechanisms that support human health. This incredible nutrient plays an essential role in bone formation, immune regulation, and even mental health.
Our bodies absorb Vitamin D through the food we eat or produce it as a biochemical reaction to sun exposure. It’s for this latter reason that many health professionals recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement during the darker winter months, when we are less likely to produce sufficient amounts through exposure to sunlight alone.
There are two forms of Vitamin D:
1) D3 – This is the type we produce as a result of sun exposure or gain by consuming animal products (as animals also synthesize D3 in response to sunlight). Studies seem to indicate that our bodies can use this type of Vitamin D more easily, which means it has greater therapeutic potential.
2) D2 – This type is found in certain plant foods. When D2 is consumed, our bodies convert it to its more active D3 counterpart. Unfortunately, a certain amount is always lost in the process, making D2 less effective from a therapeutic perspective.
The benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is perhaps best known for its ability to promote musculoskeletal health by facilitating the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and other bone-building minerals. Developing a Vitamin D deficiency can impair bone health to such a degree that the NHS advises adults and children over 4 years old to take a Vitamin D supplement during winter.
For its bone mineralisation properties, Vitamin D is widely recommended in the treatment and prevention of rickets (a disease characterised by loss of bone density and skeletal abnormalities, which is most common in children), and other skeletal disorders like osteomalacia, and osteoporosis.
However, supporting bone health is not this incredible vitamin’s only application. Here are some other noteworthy benefits:
- Supporting Immune Function: One study indicates that Vitamin D could help to prevent or lessen the severity of flu. More recent research also suggests it has a similar effect in combatting the COVID-19 virus.
- Reducing the risk of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in high-risk patients by supporting nerve health.
- Treating depression: Vitamin D is effective in the treatment of SAD. One study also found it reduced depression symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.
Why take K2 alongside D3?
When taken together, Vitamin’s D3 and K2 work in synergy to maximise potential health benefits and minimise any adverse effects which may result from over-supplementation.
If Vitamin D3 is the superhero, then K2 is the faithful sidekick who serves to guide and moderate our superhero’s behaviour. K2 provides that one crucial element that all-powerful D3 cannot achieve on its own: regulation.
As we already know, Vitamin D3’s primary use is to facilitate calcium absorption. When taken on its own, it does this without prejudice or plan. This means its calcifying effect isn’t always restricted to the bones – which can be bad news.
If left unchecked, rampant D3-enduced calcification can lead to the dangerous hardening of soft tissues, like the walls of blood vessels and protective linings of major organs. Over time, this could lead to heart disease, kidney stones, kidney disease, and other chronic or life-threatening conditions.
Vitamin K2 moderates calcification by regulating how much D3 is in the blood stream, and where in the body it is put to use. It does this by activating proteins that divert calcium away from vulnerable soft tissues and in turn, boosting D3’s bone mineralising effect.
Why vegans should take D3 and K2
Like D3, Vitamin K2 is not synthesised in the body and can only be obtained from food. Unfortunately for vegans, Vitamin D and Vitamin K are found almost exclusively in animal products, like fish oils, fish, meats, eggs, and offal.
You can boost your natural Vitamin K intake by eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, but this alone is unlikely to have many therapeutic benefits (even if you eat spinach for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
While most people could benefit from supplementing with Vitamin D3 and K2, it's especially important for those of us who keep meat off the menu.
How to choose the right Vitamin D3 and K2 supplement
From a health perspective, it’s extremely important to choose a combined Vitamin D3 and K2 supplement as opposed to taking two separate products (this is also, probably, cheaper). Combined supplements are formulated to have the ideal health-maximising ratio of K2 to D3 in each dose. Taking separate products could mean you have too little or too much K2 to balance out the Vitamin D.
As for origins, we recommend choosing a lichen-based product as Vitamin D taken from this source generally has superior bioavailability.