What You Need to Know About Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming an increasingly common problem in the UK, which is why it’s important to know what the vitamin does and how to ensure you get enough of it. To mark National Vitamin D Awareness Week, here are a few helpful facts about the vitamin and the best sources of it.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D has several important functions, but its main job is to help regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body – nutrients which are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.
What are the Effects of a Vitamin D Deficiency?
A lack of vitamin D can cause of number of different bone problems. You may experience bone pain and muscle weakness, or develop rickets – a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralise. Research also suggests that a long-term lack of the vitamin has an impact on your general health, and may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive impairment.
What are Good Sources of Vitamin D?
Our bodies make most of the vitamin D we need in reaction to sunlight on our skin so it’s important to regularly spend time outdoors. In the UK, however, our skin is only able to make vitamin D in the summer because the winter sunlight doesn’t have enough UVB radiation to aid the production of it.
The vitamin can also be found in a number of foods, including:
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
- Fortified fat spreads
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Some powdered milks
These foods, along with our body’s stores, provide us with the vitamin D we need in the winter. There are also plenty of supplements available which you can take keep your vitamin D levels up.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
Most people get all of the vitamin D they need by regularly spending time outdoors and eating a healthy balanced diet. However, those most at risk of deficiency include:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Babies and children under the age of 5
- People over the age of 65
- People who are rarely exposed to the sun, such as those who are housebound
If you belong to one of these categories, it may be necessary for you to take vitamin D supplements. 10 micrograms daily is generally the recommended amount for adults.
Can You Have Too Much Vitamin D?
If you take vitamin D supplements, it’s important to take no more than 25 micrograms a day, as more than this can be harmful. Taking too much can cause the body to absorb more calcium than can be excreted, and the excess can then be deposited in and damage the kidneys. It can also encourage calcium to be removed from the bones, softening and weakening them.
At the end of this week, the clocks will be going back and the days will be getting shorter. At this time of year, it becomes increasingly important for you to pay attention to your vitamin D intake and take steps to avoid deficiency, whether that means changing your diet or taking supplements.