Vitamin D is famously known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because most of it comes from natural sunlight. This means that in the UK during winter, we often don’t get enough of it. There is an extra emphasis on the importance of vitamin D supplementation this year because of Covid-19.
The NHS has recommended that we all take vitamin D supplements to help account for the fact that we’ve been indoors more than usual this year. Plus, some research has indicated that vitamin D could help to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. But aside from this, why is vitamin D so important for our health? Let’s find out…
The Health Benefits of Vitamin D
The main reason we need vitamin D is that it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. This means that it keeps our bones strong and healthy, and ensures normal growth in the body.
In addition to this, vitamin D contributes to our immune system function. So, we need it to lower our risk of catching colds, flu, and other common illnesses.
Vitamin D may also help to reduce depression. It’s been found that people with depression or anxiety often also have a vitamin D deficiency - this may partly explain why many of us feel less happy in the winter!
Research indicates that vitamin D may also help to boost weight loss by suppressing the appetite if your appetite is larger than usual.
Lastly, some research also indicates that getting enough vitamin D daily can improve your heart health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to bone abnormalities, such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis). Symptoms of a deficiency can include tiredness, aches, pains, feeling generally unwell, bone or muscle pain, weakness, and fractures.
Less commonly, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to certain cancers, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, and thyroid problems.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. People who live in countries that don’t have strong sunlight all year round are more likely to have this deficiency. Plus, young women, infants, elderly people, and people with darker skin are more likely to have a deficiency.
So, the amount of vitamin D you need per day is somewhat dependent on a number of different factors. The majority of people need around 400-800 IU per day, which is equivalent to 10-20 micrograms (mcg). However, some people may need up to 1000-4000 IU, or 25-100mcg, so it is certainly subjective to some extent.
Basically, the optimal blood level of vitamin D is between 20-30ng/ml, but different people will require slightly different amounts of the nutrient to achieve this blood level.
The NHS recommends using vitamin D supplements between October and April (in the UK) containing at least 10mcg per day, but do not exceed 100mcg.
Babies from birth up to 1 year old should be given a daily dose of 8.5-10mcg, but do not exceed 25mcg. Please note: this only applies to breastfed babies. Babies who are given formula do not need vitamin D supplements, as the formula already contains this.
Children aged 1-4 should be given a daily dose of 10mcg too. Do not exceed 50mcg.
Sources of Vitamin D
There are 2 types of vitamin D - D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 is the more powerful of the 2 as it raises the blood levels of vitamin D by twice as much as D2 does. So, getting more vitamin D3 is more beneficial.
Vitamin D2 comes from some mushrooms. Vitamin D3 comes from oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks. And of course, they both come from natural sunlight!
Some products, such as milk, cereal, yoghurt, and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D. This means that the vitamin is artificially added afterwards. This is because not many foods contain vitamin D naturally.
So, when you can’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, the best source is supplements. Shop a wide range of vitamin D supplements at the Wellness Factory.