• Dr Sally Norton

VITAMIN D ALERT!


With nights drawing in and sunshine a rare treat, have you considered that you may be lacking in vitamin D? It's vital for healthy bones, teeth and muscles..and may even be linked to low mood and weight gain in some studies.

As vitamin D is largely manufactured in our body from the action of sunlight, it’s not surprising that in the sun-strapped UK many of us fail to produce enough of this essential vitamin in the winter months when we are lucky to see the sun for days. Even if we do, we probably don’t have the opportunity to get outside to soak up some vitamin-producing rays, with many of us going to work and coming home in darkness.

And of course, all summer, we have been slapping on the suncream in an effort to protect ourselves from the rising incidence of skin cancer – so, minimal vitamin D synthesis going on there, I suspect.

I don't usually advocate vitamin tablets - most are a waste of money when a healthy diet is much more effective. But vitamin D may be one of the few exceptions to my rule.

As a result of the conflict between sun protection vs vitamin D production, the government commissioned more in-depth research from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) – here are their recommendations.

Here, then, is the latest deal on D:

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SACN’s review of the evidence shows some apparent benefit of vitamin D on bone health and muscle strength. Many of the benefits of vitamin D are linked to having adequate calcium too as the functions of vitamin D and calcium are closely linked – so ensure you also get plenty of dairy, leafy greens, canned sardines or salmon, nuts and other good sources.


  • SACN confirms that we should all be getting about 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vit D per day.

  • Children under 1 can safely have 8.5 micrograms (340 IU) per day

  • We can get vitamin D from foods such as egg yolk, oily fish and red meat, wild mushrooms and vitamin D fortified foods (some margarines and breakfast cereals for example).

  • However, for most people, food sources are inadequate and we should consider taking supplements in autumn and winter…and probably also in summer if we are heeding the advice to protect our skin from the sun’s rays.

  • Infants, pregnant and breast-feeding women and those with darker skin are more at risk.


SACN recommends the government considers national strategies to help us achieve those vitamin D levels – perhaps such things as adding vitamin D to milk or other commonly consumed foodstuffs.

Until then, it’s worth ensuring you get plenty of ‘D’ in your Diet – or investing in some supplements if in Doubt!

But don't make the mistake of thinking that more is better - exceeding recommended doses can be harmful.

*Free supplements containing vitamin D are available to pregnant women and children up to and including the age of 4 from low-income families as part of the government’s Healthy Start scheme.

Ref

Vitamin D and Health. SACN 2016

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