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Nutritional Health Benefits of Vitamin D & Magnesium Supplements

What is this sunshine vitamin all about?

Over the last decade, there have been over 2000 published articles reporting on vitamin D clinical research. While we know some of the unique functions of vitamin D, there is emerging research on different aspects of vitamin D effects that are not yet well-understood.


What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it’s able to be dissolved in fat but cannot dissolve in water. It’s found in a few foods such as fish liver oils, like cod liver oil and other fatty fish. Other foods that contain vitamin D include milk, cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. It’s also possible to get vitamin D from the sun, as we can produce it when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun hit our skin. In humans, once UV rays shine on your skin, vitamin D production begins, but it has to go through two transformations before becoming active and useful. The first transformation occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also known as calcidiol. The second transformation occurs in the kidney and forms the active form known as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, or calcitriol. In this form it’s able to participate in many functions related to bone health, cell growth, and immune function.

The dynamic duo in bone health: vitamin D and calcium

Vitamin D actually functions like a hormone and impacts calcium transport throughout the body. This in turn impacts bone metabolism. Specifically, vitamin D helps ensure that our calcium and phosphate levels are always constant, because if they’re not, the mineralisation, or the building up, of bones may fail. Another problem that can occur is hypocalcaemic tetany; a condition where low calcium levels cause spasms in the body. For years, it has been evident that vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining balanced calcium levels. In 1916, Harry Steenbock discovered that goats retained calcium during the sunny summer season, but lost calcium during the winter. This realisation make the connection, sunlight directly contributed to the goats’ ability to retain calcium.

Vitamin D can also impact the calcium levels in the human body and is special because it enables us to sense when those levels are low. When levels drop, it triggers an increase of calcium release from the bone and the kidney (with help of the kidney, less calcium is lost in the urine). In another role, vitamin D also works to help regulate excess calcium.

While it can help with controlling levels of calcium in the body, vitamin D participates in bone growth and bone remodelling by stimulating the activity of osteoblasts (cells that help build bone) and osteoclasts (cells that break down bone). When vitamin D in the body is low, bones suffer the consequences and can become weak, brittle and may become misshapen.

Good nutrition during early childhood supports optimal growth. This misshapen nature may be seen in children who are low in vitamin D and develop a condition called rickets, where their legs are bow-legged. In adults, low vitamin D can lead to a condition called osteomalacia, where bones start softening. This can also result in bones developing a bowing structure. Both calcium and vitamin D are helpful in protecting older adults from developing osteoporosis, a condition associated with fragile bones and an increased risk of bone fractures. This condition can also affect individuals who have difficulty exercising, postmenopausal women, and individuals who are on chronic steroid therapy.

Magnesium adds power to the dynamic duo.

Similar to the body’s vitamin D and calcium, magnesium is stored in the bone, where approximately half of your magnesium is present. Other amounts are present in soft tissue and blood. Magnesium has a role in many functions related to energy production, muscle contraction and relaxation, and bone formation. It plays an important role in the activation of vitamin D, as the transformations that occur in the liver and kidney are dependent on this mineral. A recent human study investigated the impact of magnesium supplementation on vitamin D metabolism. Researchers noted that optimal magnesium status are essential for ensuring optimal levels of the vitamin D form that needs to be activated in the kidney. How magnesium impacts vitamin D is an area of ongoing research.

Magnesium is Important for All Physiological Functions:

FROM HEAD TO TOE: Some functions listed below are dependent on magnesium.

OVERALL BODY SYSTEM: Involved in all energy production and all forms of protein synthesis.

NEUROLOGICAL SYSTEM: Normal neurological function, healthy nerve transmission.

MUSCULAR SYSTEM: Healthy muscle contraction and relaxation.

About 27% of all the magnesium in the body is found in muscle.

CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: Normal blood pressure, regular heart rhythm.

SKELETAL SYSTEM: Strong bones and teeth.

Over 60% of all the magnesium in the body is found in the skeleton.


It’s evident that vitamin D, together with calcium and magnesium, play an important role in bone health. However, vitamin D has also been investigated for its potential role in the immune system. It was discovered that the receptor for vitamin D is in many different cells, such as those in the kidney, the skin, colon, ovaries, and lymphocytes — those involved in immune responses. It’s widely known that there’s an increased risk of immune disorders when an individual has low levels of vitamin D. It has also been suggested that cells participating in immune responses (T cells) may respond to the active form of vitamin D. Generally, it is also known that vitamin D stimulates innate immunity, which is a defence mechanism whereby your body develops a nonspecific response to something that is foreign to it. One of the ways vitamin D may do this is by indirectly creating antimicrobials that can destroy bacteria. 

One condition that may be influenced by immune responses and vitamin D are infections of the respiratory tract. This is a common problem worldwide and is one of the leading causes of death. In a review of the potential protective role of vitamin D on respiratory tract infections, it was shown that vitamin D supplementation helped reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections by, on average 36%. The same review showed that vitamin D in daily doses (the average daily dose given in the studies was 1600 IU/day) a therapeutic effect compared to when given in a very large dose at longer intervals. 

Supplemental vitamin D has great potential to help prevent respiratory tract infections in athletes, particularly those who always train indoors. A study showed that vitamin D supplementation contributed to more positive outcomes where vitamin D is insufficient, as it reduced the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections during winter training.

Vitamin D deficiency

Low vitamin D status can have alarming consequences, such as increased infection rates or bone health problems like osteomalacia and osteoporosis. These leads to a decreased absorption of calcium and phosphorous — important for the mineralisation of bone.

Low Vitamin D Diseases 


Almost 50% of the world’s population is affected by low vitamin D status*!

The “mag-nitude” of the problem – Where Can We Find Magnesium?

Food sources of magnesium are common, but these foods are under-consumed and often have low bioavailability. The best sources of whole food dietary magnesium are:

  • DARK GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES: spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens.
  • WHOLE GRAINS: brown rice, oatmeal, shredded wheat and millet.
  • LEGUMES: beans and peas.
  • NUTS: almonds, peanuts and cashews.
  • FISH: salmon and halibut.
  • FRUITS: bananas, raisins, and avocados.

Worldwide, it’s been determined that almost 50% of the population is affected by low vitamin D status. To determine vitamin D status in an individual, serum circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (serum 25[OH]D) should be measured — particularly in groups that have a high risk of vitamin D deficiency. Serum 25(OH)D reflects the combined amount of vitamin D obtained from the sun, food, and from supplements. Typically, vitamin D deficiency is defined as a serum 25(OH)D level below 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L), but inadequacy symptoms can occur between levels of 12-20 ng/mL (30-50 nmol/L). These differences in range noted above are observed because the consensus on levels associated with deficiency varies. Nonetheless, screenings should be conducted in individuals at high risk of deficiency. 

High-risk groups for vitamin D deficiency include breastfed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, people with dark skin, people with fat malabsorption, and those who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

The American Academy of Paediatrics usually recommends that exclusively or partially breastfed infants be supplemented with 400 IU (10 mcg) of vitamin D per day. This is because the amount of vitamin D in breast milk cannot typically fulfil the requirements needed by an infant. Thus, supplementation could begin in the first week of life. 

Limited sun exposure, most notably during the winter months, can lead to low serum vitamin D levels. Limited sun exposure also occurs in individuals who may choose to cover up for religious reasons, or who are housebound and cannot get adequate sun exposure. In addition, people with darker skin may actually have a reduced ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Thus, dark-skinned infants may be at a higher risk of low vitamin D levels than infants who do not have dark skin. In relation to body weight, excess fat in the subcutaneous region may affect the way vitamin D is circulated in the body because it may intend to keep it locked in the fat itself, instead of allowing the vitamin D to go into our circulation for use in other cells. Those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery may exhibit issues because sections of their digestive system have been altered, so vitamin D absorption in the small intestine may be reduced.

Skin Cancer

We know that vitamin D can be produced through the skin with help from the sun’s rays. However, too much sun exposure may lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Although deficiency is common, it’s important to find the right balance of sun exposure without overdoing it. The risk of skin cancer can certainly increase if people spend too much time in the sun to increase vitamin D levels in the body. In Australia during the early 1980s, skin health campaigns were developed to caution people of excessive sun exposure, encouraging them to put on shirts and apply sunscreen to avoid the risks. Yet, vitamin D deficiency affects up to 1 billion people worldwide, and 80 – 90% of vitamin D needed is formed within the skin through UV exposure.

Today, there is more information available that strengthens the connection between vitamin D deficiency and several types of cancer, with a protective effect noted. In a review, authors included results of their own study identifying that sun protection increased the risk of vitamin D deficiency in renal transplant patients. After these patients were told to use sun protection, their serum vitamin D levels were greatly decreased!

What can we do to have a balance?

Sunscreen is still important, particularly during childhood. In addition, exposure of less than 18% of the body surface (hands, arms, face), two to three times a week in the spring, summer and autumn may be adequate to achieve appropriate vitamin D levels. Of course, many variables can affect the time needed to have an adequate effect, and other factors may affect your skin’s absorption capacity—be it where you live geographically, the seasons, or your skin tone. During times where sun exposure is limited, or for people who are at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be a safe way of ensuring vitamin D levels are adequate.

Low Magnesium Levels = Higher Risk of Chronic Diseases

Vitamin D and Sports 

Adequate intake and levels of vitamin D are of tremendous value to athletes seeking peak performance and cardiorespiratory fitness. Typically, low levels of vitamin D are associated with high risk of hypertension, poor outcomes in patients with heart failure, and other issues related to cardiovascular health. Therefore, identifying its precise relationship with cardiorespiratory fitness may be helpful for determining proper supplementation measures. To measure cardiovascular fitness, maximal oxygen consumption during exercise is measured. This is called VO2 max. In almost 2,000 individuals aged between 20 and 49 years, it was determined that there was a significant positive association between serum vitamin D levels and VO2 max. This study has helped highlight the potential role of vitamin D in cardiorespiratory fitness. The relationship between vitamin D and sports health benefits has been investigated in relation to optimal muscle function. In a review, studies highlighted the role of vitamin D to reduce inflammation, pain and myopathy, and to increase muscle synthesis.

Vitamin D Solutions

Since vitamin D has such wide-reaching benefits in the body, we can understand why it’s an area of such active research. So, how can we make sure we’re obtaining adequate amounts? There are food sources, although vitamin D is not found naturally in many commonly consumed foods. Supplementation can help ensure that we obtain adequate levels of vitamin D on a regular basis. Supplementation can help ensure that we obtain adequate levels of vitamin D on a regular basis. 

NEOLIFE Testimony:

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Born and bred in Pretoria, South African cricketer, Aiden Markram loved sport as he grew up. “There was always cricket being played at family braais,” he laughs. Aiden has come a long way from hitting balls in his backyard. The talented opening batsman was the first South African captain to win a World Cup – albeit at age-group level – when he led South Africa’s Under-19’s to World Cup glory in 2014. These days, Aiden is a batsman in the 15-man squad for 2019 Cricket World Cup in England & Wales – and he does not slow down.

Having used NeoLife vitamins for the last five years, Aiden recently shifted to using the entire range of Nutritionals, and claims he’s never felt better. Aiden uses Vitamin B Co. Sustained Release and Vitamin C Sustained Release to help boost his immune system and to keep him focussed while he travels. “They help keep me healthy throughout the season and help with my recovery in-between matches.” NeoLifeShakeTM is his go-to after particularly hard sessions, he often uses it as a meal replacement on busy days. The delicious shake provides 25 essential vitamins and minerals and is biologically complete with all 22 amino acids. It is also based on NeoLife’s clinically proven Glycaemic Response Technology to help minimise fat storage, support normal blood sugar levels and keep the body in fat-burning mode.

“NeoLife is a choice I’ve made to keep me healthy in all aspects of my life,” Aiden explains, adding that it’s never too early to start building a solid nutritional foundation. Vitamins at a young age are an absolute must. He believes getting the right nutrition from a young age can only benefit you in all aspects of life. “Children need to be strong and focussed, not only in sport but also while studying, and supplements can give them that advantage.”

Mums explain how NeoLife Products have benefitted their children

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We need this nutrition to build muscle, to strengthen our bodies and minds, and to give our bodies energy.” NutriShake provides high quality protein with all 22 amino acids and is enriched with vitamins A, D, E, C and B. It mixes easily with milk or juice and has low allergenic potential, it’s wheat-free, corn-free and low in lactose.


Struggling to swallow tablets? Chew them instead! As Chewable All-C contains nature’s richest vitamin C sources – rose hips and acerola cherries. The formula contains vitamin C-related factors from oranges, lemons and grapefruit to enhance bioavailability, while the exclusive NeoLife Noe-Plex Concentrate provides virtually everything from oranges except water. Chelated Cal-Mag with Vitamin D helps support regulated blood pressure and may provide relief from PMS. Nutritional supplements are a must nowadays because the quality of food we buy from supermarkets is not as good as it used to be. People are seeing the need to supplement, but don’t check the source or quality of its ingredients – it’s important. I’m comfortable with NeoLife Nutritional because they are food based.”

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