Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough?

altVitamin D has been all over the news recently, with concerns that many in the UK are not getting enough of it.

Much of this recent information highlights the need for supplements among at risk groups such as toddlers, the elderly and pregnant or breastfeeding women.  In fact, it was found that over half of the UK population has insufficient levels of Vitamin D.  But what is Vitamin D, why is it so important, and what can we do to boost our levels?  

Many of us know that Vitamin D is produced by our bodies in response to sunlight, and that it is good for bones and immunity.  In fact, it is estimated that 15 minutes of direct (unprotected) exposure to sunlight in the summer months, several times per week, is enough for our bodies.  However with fears about UV exposure and long hours at work many of us do not get this amount of exposure and should be taking supplements, particularly those in the at risk groups mentioned above.

There are other sources of Vitamin D such as oily fish and egg yolk, but it is very difficult to get as much as your body needs from diet alone, so this is another reason supplements are highly recommended.

It is important to note that Vitamin D is available in two forms, Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, and these are different; it is Vitamin D3 that is produced following exposure to the sun and this is what you need to take if you are supplementing your body.  The usual dose of Vitamin D3 supplements for adults is 10 micrograms per day, but check with your doctor to ensure you are taking it correctly.  Midwives are trained to provide advice to pregnant women on Vitamin D3 supplements, so are a good source of expert advice if you are currently pregnant and have not yet started taking a supplement.

A lack of Vitamin D can have adverse effects on teeth and bones, and in extreme cases can lead to problems such as rickets, and children’s bones not developing as well as they should.  People who suffer from low levels are also reported to contract viruses more easily due to a compromised immune system, and more research is being done on Vitamin D all the time.

With winter now well and truly upon us, it is unlikely anybody will be getting much sunshine at this time of year, so taking a daily supplement is particularly important.  Most health stores sell Vitamin D3 and women who are eligible for Healthy Start can receive free supplements.    If you are currently trying to conceive, you might also be interested to learn that research shows increased levels of fertility among men and women with good levels of Vitamin D so keeping your levels high has many benefits.