Vitamin D - the winter supplement we should all be taking

Vitamin D has long been known to be an essential vitamin for our bones.

We make vitamin D in our skin when the suns UVB rays are absorbed which stimulates our skin to convert vitamin D2 into vitamins D3 which is then used by our liver to produce calcitriol – it’s a complex process, but without it we wouldn’t be able to absorb calcium into our bones.

Vitamin D has been linked to reducing cancer risk, preventing obesity, depression, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.  Evidence is currently inconclusive, but as we need it for bone health anyway then there is no harm in ensuring you are getting enough.  Most people don't shows signs of deficiency until their levels are very low.  The symptoms include muscle weakness, bone pain, unexplained fatigue, difficulty thinking clearly and fractures.

Fair skinned people only need to expose their skin to approx. 15 minutes of sunlight per day to obtain enough vitamin D whilst those with very dark skin may need a few hours in the sun to get all the vitamin D they need.  This time in the sun can be that spent doing your daily activities, there’s no need to sunbath.  However, between the months of October and March those in the Northern hemisphere don’t normally see enough sun whatever our skin type.  During winter months our body uses the vitamin D stored in our liver, but some of us don’t have enough stored to last the winter.  

Few foods contain vitamin D.  These are, oily fish, red meat, eggs and fortified dairy, but we are very unlikely to get enough from these sources so it is therefore advisable that during the winter months anyone over the age of 1 take 10mcg vitamin D supplement per day.  Breastfed babies should also be given 10 mcg (400IU) daily, but formula-fed babies shouldn't be given a vitamin D supplement until they're having less than 500ml of infant formula a day, as infant formula is fortified with vitamin D.

So, what are you waiting for?  Next time you are doing your food shop pick up a pot of vitamin D to last the winter!