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What is the Connection Between Vitamin D and Cholesterol?

By B. Koch
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Vitamin D and cholesterol are closely linked, both in bodily processes as well as in nutrition. One important role of cholesterol is that is plays a vital part in the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. In the diet, vitamin D is found in foods that have high levels of cholesterol, such as cod liver oil and eggs. Studies have been done to see if there is a correlation between the levels of vitamin D a person has and their cholesterol levels, but results are inconclusive.

There is a close connection in the body between Vitamin D and cholesterol. One of the biggest sources of vitamin D for individuals is contact with sunlight; upon exposure to sunlight the body can synthesize its own vitamin D. Cholesterol is involved in the process of synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight, and without cholesterol, vitamin D synthesis would be impossible.

Dietary sources also provide a connection between these two substances. There is typically a correlation between foods that are rich in vitamin D and cholesterol — that being, foods that are high in vitamin D are often also high in cholesterol. For example, cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D, but it is also very high in cholesterol. Other foods that are high in vitamin D are lard and eggs, two foods that are notorious for being high in cholesterol.

Many scientists are researching a possible correlation between an individual’s levels of vitamin D and cholesterol. High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, effects many individuals and increases one’s risk for heart disease and stroke. It is important to keep cholesterol levels under control in order to stay healthy, which is why many are searching to see if there is a correlation between these two nutrients.

Studies seem to show that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D have lower cholesterol levels and are generally healthier overall than individuals with low levels of vitamin D. Yet, these studies do not show a direct correlation between the two. For example, vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, so having higher levels of vitamin D may mean that more calcium is being absorbed and that calcium is the nutrient actually causing an effect on cholesterol. Individuals with high levels of vitamin D also may have these high levels because they spend a lot of time outdoors in the sunlight doing physical activities, which is one way to reduce cholesterol. Although studies indicate that individuals with high levels of vitamin D have lower cholesterol, it is unknown whether or not this result is directly related to vitamin D.

There are many benefits of vitamin D, such as helping to regulate levels of calcium, preventing osteoporosis, and improving moods. If one chooses to take vitamin D supplements to help lower cholesterol or to gain any of the many benefits of this nutrient, they should choose their supplements carefully. Two popular types of vitamin D are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is naturally occurring and easy for the body to process. Vitamin D2 is difficult for the body to process and may result in toxicity. Vitamin D3 is the safer supplement to choose, and daily recommended dosages should always be followed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001786 — On Jun 26, 2019

I was told by someone who taught the medical people to read blood tests, that when sunlight hits the cholesterol under the skin, it is not a case of zap, one second it was cholesterol, next second it is vitamin D. That cholesterol exposed to sunlight goes back and forward between the kidney and liver a couple of times, and progressively each time gets one step closer to vitamin D

By anon337686 — On Jun 07, 2013

Once a person can recognize cholesterol has a place in biology, it is a lot easier to embrace the idea that all eukaryotes have an adaptive relationship with this biochemical marvel. It is the foundation molecule from which the steroidal hormones are formed and they give rise, in the very least, to the sex lives of mammals.

In the 1970s, Dr. Ancel Keys, who did more to advance fear of cholesterol and healthy saturated fats, conceded, "Cholesterol in the diet doesn't matter much, and we've known that all along." Cholesterol levels do matter, in the sense that they can be left entirely to their own devices.

Keys' fascination with early Russian research circa 1913 had him misled. Some Russians added cholesterol to the diet of rabbits. In so doing, they induced atherosclerosis (heart disease) but neither Keys, nor they, realized the cholesterol they added to the rabbit chow may have become oxidised before the rabbits ingested it.

There should no longer be any doubt that there is a world of difference between the effects of the cholesterol we may eat and any oxidised cholesterol.

One of the great things about vitamin D, ingested or synthesised in the sun, is that is a great antioxidant. Vitamin D is one of the most potent reducing agents in biochemistry and human physiology. It is good that some cholesterol rich foods, like eggs, are also good sources of vitamin D because vitamin D could then combat any oxidative stress traces of oxidised cholesterol may provoke.

Today's a nice day. Without being too brazen, I have just gone outdoor in the back yard fully naked to get maximum exposure, specifically to synthesise some vitamin D from my beloved cholesterol. Just the way nature intended.

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