Should I take a vitamin D supplement? We give you the lowdown on the sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is produced by the body when your skin is exposed to the sun, and it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D all year round. During the autumn and winter months, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for your skin to naturally produce vitamin D, so the government recommends that everyone should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D at this time of year.
You’ve probably got questions. What does it do? Where do I get it from? Well, we’re glad you asked! Stick with us, we’re about to tell-all.
Vitamin D 101
Vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies to help keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It’s also great for supporting our immune system. We usually get most of our vitamin D from sunlight (between late March/early April and the end of September), but a small number of foods contain it too.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults, and rickets in children.
What are good sources of vitamin D?
Our main source of vitamin D comes from the sun, our bodies create it from direct sunlight hitting our skin when we're outdoors in the sunshine. During spring and summer is when we get the most sunlight exposure in the UK, so at this time of the year, most people will be able to get all the vitamin D they need by being outside each day for a short period.
And the benefits of vitamin D don’t stop there! When we’re basking in sunshine (don’t forget your sun cream, hat and sunglasses), our bodies can make and store enough vitamin D to last us a few weeks – clever, right?
Unlike other vitamins, it’s hard to get enough of your daily recommended amount of vitamin D from food, but you can find small amounts in some everyday foods like:
• Fatty fish, such as fresh tuna, mackerel, and salmon
• Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals
• Egg yolks
Should I be taking a vitamin D supplement?
During the autumn and winter, the sun isn’t strong enough for the body to make vitamin D, unless you’re spending your winter in a hot climate (lucky you!). That’s why adults and children over five years of age are already advised to take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months.
Although it can’t protect us from catching things like coronavirus or the flu, vitamin D will help to keep your immune system, bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Just so you know, we constantly update all of our vitamins with the latest government advice, so you’re OK to follow our guidance.
Am I at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Some people are more likely to be low on vitamin D (deficient) if they have limited access to sunshine. If you usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when you’re outdoors, aren't often outdoors due to illness or disability, or have dark skin – for example, you have an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background – it’s recommended you take a vitamin D supplement of 10 µg all year round.
Should infants & children be taking a vitamin D supplement?
We all know calcium is essential for keeping bones strong and healthy, but our bodies struggle to absorb calcium without vitamin D.
Breastfed babies from birth to one year of age should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 µg of vitamin D all year round, whilst formula-fed babies – if they are having more than 500ml of infant formula a day – shouldn’t be given a supplement, as infant formula is already fortified with enough vitamin D.
Children aged one to four should be given a 10 µg supplement of vitamin D each day all year round. To make sure they’re getting enough of the other vitamins, it’s advised by the government to give them a daily supplement containing vitamins A and C from six months of age up to the age of five.
What is the difference between vitamin D2 & D3?
The two most important forms of vitamin D you can find are D2 and D3. D2 is produced by plants, and D3 is made by your skin from sunlight and found in animal food products like oily fish.
Vitamin D2 is suitable for vegans, but some vitamin D3 supplements can be derived from an animal source such as sheep’s wool, making it unsuitable for vegans. Other vitamin D3 supplements are derived from lichen and are vegan-friendly, so it’s always worth checking the individual product label.
Can I take too much vitamin D?
If you choose to take a vitamin D supplement, 10 µg a day will be enough for most people. High strength vitamin D supplements are available, but it’s advised not to take more than 100 µg. If your GP has recommended taking a higher dose, you should continue to follow their advice. If you’re outside catching those rays, always remember your sun cream!
And there you have it, the A to Z of vitamin D.
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