What is Vitamin D and why is it important?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient. It can be obtained from the diet as well as being made by our body from sun exposure. It exists in 2 forms – the plant-produced ergocalciferol (D2) and the animal/human produced cholecalciferol (D3). Vitamin D is important for bone, teeth, and muscle health as it helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body.
Without sufficient amounts, we can put our body at risk of bone abnormalities including osteomalacia, osteoporosis and rickets in children. It’s important to ensure that we are consuming adequate quantities of Vitamin D from an early age and throughout life.
What are the best sources of Vitamin D?
The best food sources of Vitamin D include oily fish and eggs. More recently, some supermarket-available mushroom varieties have been treated with UV-B light and are also considered a source. You can also commonly find cereals, juices, yoghurt, and milk products that have been fortified with Vitamin D, often also with calcium. Fortification means that the nutrients have been added to improve the nutritional profile of the food, making it easier for the general population to meet their requirements.
In Spring and Summer months, spending 15 minutes in the sun each day, close to midday – with your face, neck, and arms or legs exposed is a great way to ensure that you are getting sufficient Vitamin D. Remember that UV-B cannot pass through glass (e.g. windows or conservatories) and applying sunscreen will also reduce the amount absorbed by the skin. On the other hand, there’s no need to sunbathe for hours as once at this small capacity, your body will not make any further Vitamin D.
What are the daily requirements for Vitamin D?
In the UK, the recommended intake of Vitamin D is 400 international units (iu) or 10 micrograms (mcg) per day. This applies to males and females of all ages, and there are currently no guidelines concerning increasing this amount during pregnancy and lactation.
Should I supplement?
Supplementation is recommended for children under the age of 5, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. It should also be considered for people who may be unlikely to obtain Vitamin D from food or sunlight – for example in vegans or anyone who does not regularly consume oily fish or eggs, the elderly, as well as those who may not regularly get outdoors.
During the winter months (October – April) the UV rays from the sun are not strong enough for our bodies to synthesise Vitamin D. This is why current guidelines from the UK Department of Health recommend that all members of the population supplement Vitamin D at this time of year.
If supplementing, try to look for a Vitamin D3 in the range of 10-25mcg or 1000iu/day, which should be a sufficient amount. Vegan and vegetarian sources of D3 are easily available, so just check the label or contact the manufacturer if you are unsure.
Vitamin D is available from Kamsons Pharmacy and is included in our 3 for 2 range of vitamins, so it’s a great idea to stock up on these. For any queries regarding Vitamin D and other supplements, be sure to ask your pharmacist.