Finger pressing touch screen interface with vitamin D

Finger pressing touch screen interface with vitamin DIt is not often that the government recommends that the general population supplement a particular nutrient – however that is exactly what happened last summer. Public Health England (PHE) issued a recommendation that all adults and children over the age of 1 should be getting at least 10mcg (400iu) of vitamin D per day – an amount which may require supplementation during the winter months.

In addition, all babies under one year should have a daily 8.5-10mcg vitamin D supplement. However, babies who have more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day don’t need a vitamin D supplement as formula is already fortified.

Our major source of natural vitamin D comes from the action of sunlight on our skin. In the UK this process will occur during the summer months when the sun is at it warmest. Sun exposure during the hotter part of the day is best and not through cloud cover. Skin really needs to turn a little pink for the vitamin D reaction to have occurred. So if you are prone to burning and prefer to avoid the sun and slap on very high factor sun cream then you may well need to supplement vitamin D through the summer months too.

Vitamin D does occur in some foods. It is a fat soluble vitamin and so is present in many fatty foods such as oily fish, eggs and dairy produce. Some cereals are also fortified with vitamin D. Levels of the vitamin in food are not generally high however, so it would be difficult to obtain enough from diet alone. Here are some examples of commonly eaten foods and their approximate vitamin D content:

  • Milk, fortified with vit D (250ml) – 36mcg / 120iu
  • Egg (large) – 12mcg / 41iu
  • Salmon sockeye (85g) – 134mcg / 447iu
  • Yoghurt, fortified with vit D (120g) – 16mcg / 55iu
  • Tuna tinned (85g) – 46mcg / 154iu

So, why is vitamin D so important? It is important for our bones. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain correct mineral levels in the bone so that bone remineralisation can occur. It is therefore especially important for adults at risk of osteoporosis to optimise their intake. Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.

Vitamin D is a seriously important nutrient. Optimal levels are around 50-70ng/ml. If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels then you can ask your GP to test for you. Or you can arrange your own private finger prick blood test via a postal service from http://vitamindtest.org.uk/. Cost is £28. Depending on your levels of vitamin D you may need supplementation greater that 10mcg (400iu) to correct a deficiency.

I often advise my clients about the importance of vitamin D in relation to a wide variety of health issues. It is something that I bear in mind during my consultations, especially in the winter months. Vitamin D is one of the staple supplements that my family and I do take regularly through the year. The bio-active form of vitamin D is Vitamin D3 – so if you choose to supplement then look for a supplement with this form rather than the less bio-active Vitamin D2.

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