Vitamin D

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has recently looked into ways that the Vitamin D levels of those living in England could be improved. They have asked for advice from individuals and businesses on ways that we could get more of the vitamin in our diet and through supplementation. They want to raise awareness amongst the public and also health care professionals of the importance of this vitamin.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey has shown that more than one in ten adults in the UK is lacking in vitamin D, which is important for keeping our bones and muscles healthy.  It also helps our immune system to work as it should.

Our main source of vitamin D is from the sun but it is also found in foods such as eggs, oily fish, red meat and liver as well as some foods that are fortified such as some margarines and cereals. 

The current recommendation is that we should all take a vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter when we aren’t exposed to enough sunlight. However, those who are at risk of low vitamin D, which includes those who cover their skin, have darker skin, are housebound or live in an institution such as a care facility, should take a supplement all year round. Children aged 1 - 4 and all babies, unless they get 500 ml of formula a day, should also take a supplement.

How much?

Breastfed and babies under 1 who have less than 500ml formula a day should have 8.5 - 10 micrograms daily, all through the year.

Children aged 1 - 4 should have 10 micrograms every day, all through the year.

For adults and children over 5 the recommendation is to have 10 micrograms daily through autumn and winter or daily throughout the year if they fall into one of the at risk groups above.

Too much vitamin D can lead to too much calcium in the body, this can lead to weakened bones, and damage to the heart and kidneys. Therefore you should stick to the recommendations unless advised otherwise by a health professional such as your GP. Some people have a medical condition which means they are not able to take as much vitamin D. If you are unsure you should ask your GP.

While it is impossible to have too much vitamin D from sunlight it’s important to remember to protect your skin when out in the sun to reduce risk of skin damage and cancer.

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