With summer only really just starting, winter is probably the furthest thing from your mind. However, new guidelines from Public Heath England have shown that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles and we should aim to consume 10mg a day. Whilst many of us get a good dose of vitamin D from the sun during the summer, in winter, and in the UK especially, this may not be the case, so a supplement could be needed to help you get your recommended daily dose.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D can help us to regulate the amount of phosphate and calcium in our bodies which are essential for healthy teeth, bones and muscles. It is present in some foods such as eggs, red meat and oily fish and is also included in some spreads and cereal. However, our primary source of vitamin D comes from sunlight, which is fine during the spring/summer period but can cause problems in the winter. Vitamin D supplements therefore could be useful during the duller winter period.
What does Public Health England recommend?
Public Health England’s new guidelines address concerns from health officials who believe that diet is not sufficient to ensure enough vitamin D. As many as one in five adults and one in six children suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Some of the consequences of low vitamin D levels in children include rickets and brittle bones, whilst in adults, a vitamin D deficiency can cause osteomalacia which can cause aches and pains in muscle and bone.
It is recommended that adults and children over 10 years old take a daily supplement featuring 10mcg of vitamin D, especially during the autumn and winter period where levels of sunlight are lower. It is also recommended that children aged 1-4 have a 10mcg daily supplement, and babies should have 8.5-10mcg. However, they say that babies who are given at least 500ml of infant formula do not need any additional supplements as it is fortified to contain vitamin D.
It is important to note however that people shouldn’t exceed the recommended dosage as too much vitamin D can increase calcium in the body to high levels, which can lead to kidney and heart problems.
Ensuring you get enough vitamin D
Even when sunlight is in plentiful supply, many of us fail to get our recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Even sunscreen can be a blocker, and many experts believe it is vital that we are exposed to sunlight without sunscreen for a short amount of time to ensure adequate vitamin D production.
As well as making sure you eat a healthy diet, there are other things you can do to ensure that you get your vitamin D boost. Making sure you get outside during sun hours is vital. Whether you go for a walk in the morning or on your lunch break, you should aim to get outdoors and get some sunlight.
Low income families are able to get vitamin D supplements free via the NHS’s Healthy Start scheme, so if you qualify, it’s important that you take advantage.
For more information about vitamin D as well as suggestions for ensuring you get the right amount for your daily needs, the NHS website has some excellent resources.