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by Kunal K April 29, 2024 3 min read

The Vitamin D-Cholesterol Connection

Vitamin D and cholesterol are metabolically linked because cholesterol is a key precursor for the skin's synthesis of vitamin D3 when exposed to sunlight.

Research shows vitamin D deficiency increases circulating cholesterol by reducing vitamin D receptor activity, highlighting the importance of replenishing vitamin D to manage cholesterol (Li et al., 2016).

The Vitamin D-Cholesterol Connection


What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that regulates calcium absorption, supports bone health, and influences cell growth. Although classified as a vitamin, it can also be produced in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency increases risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and autoimmune disorders (Holick, 2004).

Cholesterol's Role
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all cells, essential for producing hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that aid digestion. While high LDL (bad) cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup in arteries, cholesterol is necessary for many vital functions.

Sunlight's Impact
Sunlight exposure is critical for vitamin D synthesis, but several factors influence its effectiveness (Holick, 2013):

  • Season and latitude affect sunlight's UVB rays required for vitamin D production
  • Time of day, with midday sun being most effective
  • Skin pigmentation, as melanin reduces vitamin D synthesis (Bandeira et al., 2006)
  • Age, as the skin's ability to produce vitamin D decreases over time

Despite plentiful sunlight in some regions, over 50% of the global population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency due to inadequate sun exposure and poor dietary intake (Holick, 2014).

Sensible sun exposure is essential, despite skin cancer concerns (Holick, 2020).

Foods for Healthy Levels
To maintain cholesterol levels sufficient for vitamin D synthesis and prevent deficiency, consume:

  • Fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy (vitamin D sources)
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil (healthy fats needed for synthesis)

For optimal vitamin D and cholesterol levels:

  • Aim for regular, smart sun exposure to facilitate vitamin D production.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D and healthy fats year-round.
  • Consider Vitamin D supplements if sun and dietary intake are insufficient, especially at higher latitudes (Holick, 1995).
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get levels tested and adjust sun/dietary intake as needed.
  • Supplement with Vitamin D3 as needed, with an emphasis on this in the low daylight hours of winter.


By understanding sunlight's vital role in vitamin D synthesis from cholesterol, individuals can take steps to prevent deficiency and reduce risks of associated chronic diseases (Nagre, 2019).

Shop for Vitamin D Supplements


Bandeira, F., Griz, L., Dreyer, P., Eufrazino, C., Bandeira, C., & Freese, E. (2006). Vitamin D deficiency: A global perspective. Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia, 50(4), 640-646.
Holick, M. F. (1995). Environmental factors that influence the cutaneous production of vitamin D. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 61(3), 638S-645S.
Holick, M. F. (2004). Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(6), 1678S-1688S.
Holick, M. F. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 369(3), 200-200.
Holick, M. F. (2014, December). Sunlight, Ultraviolet Radiation, Vitamin D and Skin Cancer: How Much Sunlight Do We Need?. In Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (Vol. 810, pp. 1-16). Springer, Cham.
Holick, M. F. (2020). Vitamin D and human health: an ancient solution for a modern pandemic. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 105(12), dgaa489.
Li, S., He, Y., Lin, S., Hao, L., Ye, Y., Lv, L., ... & Yang, J. (2016). Increasing vitamin D levels in adults deficient in vitamin D increases the cholesterol:vitamin D intake ratio. Nutrients, 8(5), 290.
Nagre, S. (2019). Sun Exposure: Benefits, Risks and Safety. Journal of Medical and Pharmaceutical Innovation, 6(20).
Patwardhan, V. G., Mughal, Z. M., Padidela, R., Chiplonkar, S. A., Khadilkar, V. V., Dorairaj, R., ... & Rathi, G. (2017). Randomized control trial assessing impact of increased sunlight exposure versus vitamin D supplementation on lipid profile in Indian vitamin D deficient men. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 21(1), 131-136.
Patwardhan, V. G., Mughal, Z. M., Padidela, R., Chiplonkar, S. A., Khadilkar, V. V., Khadilkar, A. V., ... & Rathi, G. (2015). Factors influencing bioavailability of cholecalciferol in healthy adults: A randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 100(9), 3203-3213.

Kunal K
Kunal K

Co-Founder, OptimOZ.com.au

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