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Vitamin D: the neglected vitamin

/ Health & Fitness

Vitamin D has been the topic of much debate over the years and we are still learning more and more about its many roles.

Early April-September is the Vitamin D season; the time when we can make Vitamin D from sunlight on the skin. Approximately 20 minutes in the summer sun is thought to be beneficial.

When the sun hits the skin it activates a substance called Pro-vitamin D, which is processed in the liver and activated in the kidney to become the active form of Vitamin D. Vitamin D’s main role is to regulate Calcium and Phosphorus absorption in the intestine, to maintain calcium balance and to stimulate bone cell mineralization.

Vitamin D has an impact on much more than just bones and teeth. Recent studies suggest a shortage of this vitamin can cause the following:

  • Delays recovery from exercise
  • Increases muscle soreness
  • Reduces strength and power
  • Suppresses immunity
  • May reduce endurance performance.

Vitamin D also appears to have a role to play in preventing and managing the following conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Auto-immune conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

A study from South Korea in 2013 found 2 major factors affecting Vitamin D:

  • Levels varied greatly between seasons, showing that sunshine did make a big difference.
  • Consumption of certain foods (mackerel, anchovy, tuna, pollock and milk) could help prevent vitamin D deficiency, particularly in the winter months.

Sunlight:

Between late March and September, most people aged over 5 years are likely to receive sufficient vitamin D from sunlight and common foods that either naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D.

Between October and March, dietary sources have to provide the vast majority of vitamin D. For many people it is difficult to get enough from foods alone. Everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.

Those with very little or no sunshine exposure will need to take this supplement of vitamin D throughout the year.

People who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdoors
Those who seldom go outdoors such as the frail, housebound or those with limited access to outdoors e.g. in care homes.
Diet:

Vitamin D is found naturally in a small number of foods including oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, and herring), red meat, liver and egg yolk. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D including some breakfast cereals and most fat spreads. Dietary supplements can also help boost vitamin D.

I’d like to clear upĀ 2 common misconceptions about Vitamin D that I hear regularly:

“I’m often outdoors so should be fine with Vitamin D status” – the UK is one of the cloudiest countries in the industrialised world.

“I wasn’t told I needed vitamin D”- 90% of mums have not been advised about the importance of vitamin D.
Key Advice

  1. Take a vitamin D3 (not D2) supplement at a dose of 10ng (1000 iu) per day especially between October and March.
  2. Take with the main meal of the day.
  3. Try to get approximately 20 mins sun exposure when you can especially between early April and September.

    For further information contact Marko from Magna Vitae

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