Vitamin D, is a fat soluble vitamin that is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important for your organs to work well and so that your body can fight infection.
Vitamin D deficiency or Hypovitaminosis D, is a global health issue and it is estimated that over a billion people are vitamin D deficient or insufficient¹ . Groups particularly at risk are children, those aged over 65, pregnant & breastfeeding women and people with darker skin who live in the UK or other northern climates. In addition, those that cover up a lot, don’t go outside often and those that live in air polluted areas are also at risk.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin with a twist. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be made by our bodies, when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
Recommendations (Institute of Medicine 2010)
• Infants 0-12 months=400IU
• Ages 1-70yrs=600 IU
• 70+ yrs.=800 IU
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because this is where we get most of our vitamin D from. The strength of sunlight dictates how much vitamin D is made; so you will make more in the middle of the day, when the sun is strongest. Also, you will also make more of the vitamin when you are in direct sunlight and not in the shade. You do not have to sunbathe to make vitamin D. In fact, before applying sunscreen, if you go out in the sun two-three times a week for at least 15 minutes in this period, your body will make enough vitamin D. During the winter, we get vitamin D from our body’s stores and from food sources.
Food sources of vitamin D
• Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, kippers and eel contain reasonable amounts of vitamin D
• Cod liver oil contains a lot of vitamin D (don’t take this if you are pregnant)
• Eggs, meat, beef liver, cheese and milk
• Margarine, some breakfast cereals, infant formula milk and some yoghurts have added or are ‘fortified’ with vitamin D
• Specific mushroom brands are a good source of vitamin D because they are grown in ultraviolet light to spur vitamin D production.
Supplementation for vitamin D
Some population groups require vitamin D supplementation. These are:
• Those aged 65 years or older
• People who are not exposed to enough sun should take a supplement of 10 micrograms a day.
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also take 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day*.
• All babies and children aged six months to five years should be given a daily supplement of 7-8.5 micrograms unless they have more than 500mls of fortified formula milk.
• Breastfeeding babies may need to be given a vitamin drop from one month of age if their mother had not taken a supplement during pregnancy.
• Vitamin D supplements and multivitamins are widely available to buy from chemists/pharmacies, supermarkets and health food shops.
• Always choose a supplement tailored to the age group or condition. This is because fish liver oils and high dose multivitamin supplements often contain vitamin A and too much of this vitamin can cause liver and bone problems, especially in very young children, and the elderly.
• It is important not to take more than one supplement containing vitamin D (including cod-liver oil as a supplement).
• The Vitamin D Council recommends taking vitamin D3 rather than vitamin D2. This is because, vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D your body produces in response to sun exposure, while vitamin D2 is not. However, vitamin D3 supplements are not suitable for vegetarians and due to this, vitamin D2 can be an alternative.
Vitamin D is needed for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. To achieve adequate vitamin D levels ensure to get adequate amounts of sunshine, consume dietary sources of vitamin D and take vitamin supplements if necessary.