Vitamin D, sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine’ hormone, helps to maintain calcium and phosphate in the body, which keep bones, teeth and muscle strong and healthy. However, it is estimated that as low as 1 in 5 people have insufficient vitamin D levels!
So, why is it that so many do not reach the recommended levels of vitamin D, and how can we make sure we’re getting enough? We thought we’d share some key information on vitamin D, and our top 5 tips on how you can get more of this nutrient into your diet.
What is vitamin D and why do we need it?
Vitamin D is a hormone we make in our skin when exposed to sunlight. It helps our bodies to function and not only helps to absorb calcium, but also works with calcium and phosphorus to maintain healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Plus, it’s also super important for muscle function and strength.
What are the main sources of vitamin D?
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Humans produce vitamin D in their skin upon direct contact with ultraviolet (UV) rays.
During April to September, when the sun is strongest, you may be able to make vitamin D if you have exposed skin on the hands, face and arms. However, you do not need to sunbathe to make vitamin D and if you are exposed to sunlight, make sure you are wearing sunscreen to prevent your skin from burning.
In the winter, the UV rays are not strong enough to make vitamin D in your skin. Although you can get vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, fortified cereals, milks and mushrooms, which contain moderate amounts, as well as egg yolks, milk and meat which contain small amounts, these foods are often not consumed in sufficient enough quantities to meet the recommended dietary intakes of vitamin D. Therefore, it is recommended that we take a daily vitamin D supplement in the winter months, especially if you are in an at-risk group (see those classified as most at risk below).
How much vitamin D do I need?
The NHS recommends:
- Babies up to the age of 1 year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day.
- Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D a day, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
There are also cases where you may need to take more than the recommended amount of vitamin D especially if you are deficient. However, we would always suggest to speak with your doctor first about this too.
You can purchase vitamin D supplements and multi-vitamins in tablet form, gels, chews, drops or as a spray. Research has shown a variety of formats to be equally effective.
On our website there are a range of vitamin D supplements available such as the Vitamin D3 Drops or Vitamin D3 Sofgels. Or check out the Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc & Vitamin D3 tablets which are vegetarian friendly and the Multivitamins Complex with 26 Essential Vitamins & Minerals tablets that are suitable for vegans.
Don’t forget to make sure that supplement you are taking is tailored to your age group, dietary preference and individual needs. If you have any concerns, please consult your healthcare professional.
What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin D?
You can be at risk of deficiency if you don’t meet the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. In children this could lead to rickets, causing bone and muscle deformities and in adults, a vitamin D deficiency could lead to osteomalacia, a condition in which the bones become soft.
However, there are certain groups of people that are at more risk of vitamin D deficiency than others. For example:
Babies and young children whom spend a large amount of time indoors
Those pregnant and breastfeeding
Darker skin tones
Individuals that cover their skin when they are outside, or whom spend little time outdoors during the summer
The further North you live, as there is weaker sunlight to make vitamin D
In areas where the air is polluted
Is there any link between vitamin D and coronavirus?
It has been indicated that vitamin D may play a role in the body’s immune response, including response to respiratory viruses.
Studies have suggested that there is a link between low levels of vitamin D and Coronavirus. However, the research remains unclear and a direct link has not yet been shown as many of these individuals had pre-existing conditions that may have increased their risk of developing coronavirus.
Regardless, we should all follow the current dietary recommendation of at least 10 mcg of vitamin D daily due to the overall health risks of vitamin D deficiency.
VITAMIN D: TOP 5 TIPS
1. DAILY D - Take a daily supplement of at least 10 micrograms (mcg) vitamin D, especially during the winter months e.g. September to April.
2. LET THE SUN SHINE…SAFELY - Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D however, you do not have to sunbathe to make it. In the summer months, exposing skin to sunlight will lead to vitamin D production but make sure you protect your skin with sunscreen to prevent your skin from burning.
3. DIETARY D - Include a variety of vitamin D dietary sources such as oily fish, flaxseed, chia seeds and fortified cereals, milk, and mushrooms.
4. ENHANCE & ENRICH – Enrich your diet with plenty of sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as these nutrients are also important in the maintenance of bones, teeth and muscle.
5. CHECK THE LABEL - 10 micrograms is sometimes written as (µg) or is expressed as International Units (IU). So, 1 microgram of vitamin D = 40 IU which means 10 micrograms is equal to 400 IU. Always check the label to make sure you are buying an appropriate supplement for you and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
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