Vitamin D is essential for the formation and maintenance of strong bones, teeth and muscles as it assists the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. Vitamin D is produced under the skin, it is a fatty substance called ergosterol and occurs when we are exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is our sunshine vitamin because Vitamin D production is stimulated by the ultraviolet light our skin receives from the sun. Almost a quarter of the UK population will have low levels of Vitamin D during the months between October and March.
Therefore it is vitally important during these months to top on our food rich in Vitamin D.
Eat up on your Vitamin D foods.
- Oily Fish, salmon, sardines, pilchards, kippers, herring and trout
- Cod liver Oil (check first with doctor if you are pregnant)
- Some breakfast cereals, infant formula milk and some yoghurts have added or are fortified with Vitamin D
- Egg yolk, meat, offal and milk
- Kelp or seaweed
However you may not get enough Vitamin D from the sun if you use too much sunscreen or sit in the shade. We need to expose our bare skin to the sun for short periods of time. I like to walk my dog in the early morning sun for 30 mins only, for me that is my daily sunshine vitamin.
The amount of Vitamin D made in the skin depends on how strong the sun is. You will make more during the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest. But saying that, strong sun does burn the skin, therefore ir is very important to find the balance between making Vitamin D and staying dafe in the sun. Take care not to let the skin go red or burn. Either cover up or use a screen.
What are the true benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the immune system to fight infections.
Vitamin D encourages cell differentiation and slows down the rate at which cells multiply, or proliferate.
Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which may also contribute to its effectiveness in reducing some types of muscular pain.
Optimum levels of vitamin D protect against diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. Diabetes is usually associated with very low levels of vitamin D.
The pancreas also needs sufficient vitamin D in order to make and secrete insulin.
Getting enough vitamin D helps blood sugar control. It may also help prevent serious diabetic complications.
A lack of vitamin D, known as vitamin D deficiency causes the bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities. Vitamin D is essential in bone growth. Its main role in the body is to increase the flow of calcium into the bloodstream. It does this by promoting absorption of calcium from food. Without vitamin D, calcium would not be absorbed into the body.
The main symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are aching bones, weak muscles, high blood pressure, tiredness and depression.
Interesting facts! Did you know the amount of Vitamin D your body requires is different for certain groups of people, meaning some require more Vitamin D than others?
- Darker skin – the darker the skin the more sun is needed to receive the same amount of Vitamin D as fair skin.
- Elderly people have thinner skin and so the skin cannot produce enough Vitamin D
- Housebound and people who work nights and sleep during the day will be deficient in Vitamin D.
Do we need Vitamin D supplements?
All babies under one should be given a daily supplement. Children over one and all adults should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms, especially during the Autumn and Winter months. During these months we receive Vitamin D from our bodies stores and from food sources but the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report says these are insufficient to keep up Vitamin D levels and they recommend the only way to ensure a healthy Vitamin D status is to take supplements.
A Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) of 10 micrograms of Vitamin D per day throughout the year, for everyone aged 4 years and above. Although further in the report from SACN they did not take into account any sunlight exposure whilst making recommendations due to the number and complexity of factors that affect skin synthesis of Vitamin D.