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Vitamin D – the ‘Sunshine vitamin’

Often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – vitamin D is created when sunlight touches the skin. As we don’t enjoy sunny days all year around here in the UK (if only!) there is often confusion around whether a supplement of vitamin D is needed and if so, the amount we should be taking!

So, if you’re a tad baffled by the conflicting opinions about vitamin D you may have heard, here’s a bit more info about why vitamin D is so important and the NHS guidance on how much we should all be taking!

It’s been known for a long time that vitamin D is important for healthy bones – but research in recent years have also highlighted that deficiencies in vitamin D may be linked to a wide range of health problems.

Vitamin D contributes to numerous biological functions in the body, including:

  • normal function of the immune system
  • maintenance of normal muscle function
  • cell division
  • maintenance of normal bones
  • normal utilisation of calcium and phosphorous

It’s not as easy as some may think to get vitamin D from diet alone. The main sources of vitamin D can be found in oily fish and fortified egg yolks and milk. So not actually that long a list of foods.

We all spend a lot less time in the sun than our ancestors did, and we’re conscious to put on sun protection – so we all get less vitamin D than we used to and most importantly than we need.

The NHS guidance on vitamin D is that from birth, all breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D (8.5 to 10mcg). But if your baby is having more than 500ml (about a pint) of first infant formula a day, they do not need a supplement because formula is already fortified with vitamin D. Once your baby is six months old, and up until they are five years, daily vitamin A, C and D supplements are recommended (unless they’re having 500ml or more of first infant formula each day). The NHS then advises that everyone over 5 years old (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.

They suggest that between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. So, you may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months. Though people at risk of vitamin D deficiency are recommended to take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year. People with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean and south Asian backgrounds may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and so they should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.

It’s advisable to talk to your GP about getting your vitamin D levels tested you’re concerned you may be deficient.

If you are looking for a supplement, we now have a vitamin D tablets available in Clinic. Ask Polly or Lauren for more details.

Sources: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/