What is Vitamin D and why it is important?
There is a growing interest around Vitamin D and its effects on people’s health and that deficiency could affect seriously people’s health. Also, low Vitamin D levels have been observed in several health conditions (neuropsychological functioning, reproductive health, infectious disease etc.), but there is no evidence supporting it is the main cause of those conditions.
Vitamin D is crucial to regulate the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphate which contributes to to form and maintain healthy bones. Maintaining an adequate concentration is important for children, teenagers and for pregnant women. It keeps their bones healthy and so babies are born with enough vitamin D for the first few months of life. For adults? 50 years the evidence overall suggests that vitamin D supplementation improves muscle strength and function.
How vitamin D is produced and what is its recommended concentration for UK residents?
We can get most of the Vitamin D as the result of sunlight exposure. We can also get some from the food or dietary supplements which are essential when sunlight exposure is limited. (e.g. during the winter months). In the UK, sunlight-induced vitamin D production is only effective between late March/early April and September but not from October onwards throughout the winter months.
Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Different groups of people in the UK are at greater risk of deficiency:
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- children under 5 years of age
- people aged 65 and over
- people who have darker skin or are at limited exposure to the sun; for example, those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, are housebound or who stay indoors for long periods
In order to protect musculoskeletal health, the recommendation is that vitamin D level of all individuals in the UK should not fall below certain levels at any time of the year and therefore a supplementation of 10 ?g/d (400 IU/d) for vitamin D is recommended for the UK population aged 4y and above during the winter months.
How could vitamin D level be implemented?
The two major forms of vitamin D are vitamin D3 and vitamin D2 . Few food sources are naturally rich in vitamin D. Significant amounts of vitamin D are mostly available in foods of animal origin like:
- egg yolk
- oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines;
- animal products such as meat, fat, liver and kidney;
- wild mushrooms are a rich natural source of vitamin D2.
Foods fortified with vitamin D are widely available in the UK (breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milks and fat spreads) as well as dietary vitamin D supplements which contain either vitamin D2 or D3. The prescription for those supplements should be reviewed by clinicians to avoid high intake of vitamin D and its potential toxic consequences.
If you are not sure whether you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, or don’t know which supplements to take, call +richmond practice on 020 8940 5009 or go to http://richmondpractice.co.uk/