Public Health England (PHE) has advised recently that the population of the UK should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months. Here’s all you need to know about Plate of foodvitamin D and its benefits.

Vitamin D is found in foods with higher levels of fat because it is a fat soluble vitamin. Like its counter parts vitamins A, E & K, it is stored, transported and utilised in foods with higher fat content such as oily fish like salmon, red meat, liver and egg yolks. Therefore, making sure you have healthy natural fats in your diet is always a good idea.

What are the benefits of vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. This nutrient helps to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Other authors also suggest that it helps to protect you against chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancers. Despite all these benefits, national surveys suggest that around a fifth of adults and 8 to 24% of children may have low vitamin D status.

Who is vitamin D important for?
Everyone! However, for some people vitamin D is more important than others. These are described as being an at-risk population and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) lists the following:

  • Infants and children aged under 5
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly teenagers and young women
  • People over 65
  • People who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example, those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
  • People with darker skin, for example, people of African, African-Caribbean or South Asian family origin.

So if you or one of your clients falls into this group then they should be more concerned about their diet, sun exposure and supplementation.

Where can I get vitamin D from?
Humans generally make more vitamin D in their skin than they get from their diet. This is because most foods do not contain vitamin D in high levels and for most people minimal sun exposure should allow you generate all the vitamin D you require. Unfortunately, in the UK in the winter months (Oct-Apr) the sun is not strong enough to generate it and with this in mind new guidelines on supplementation have been issued. There are foods, as discussed at the beginning of the article, which do contain good levels of vitamin D and should be included on a regular basis.

What is all this about supplements?
Public Health England (PHE) says that children and adults over the age of one should have 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D every day, they also suggest an individual should not take more than 100mcg of vitamin D a day, as it could be harmful. 10mcg of vitamin D would be found in a portion of salmon or about ten eggs. Red meat such as beef & liver does contain lower levels of vitamin D. For example, a decent sized steak (about 300g) would contain around 4mcg. Therefore, most people should look to supplement with vitamin D in the winter months if living in the UK, especially those belonging to the at risk population. A good quality, cold pressed cod liver oil would be the best option Green Pastures CLO would be my recommendation. Remember to get out in the sun when possible, but take care not to get burnt. You will be able to get enough vitamin D synthesis from mild exposure without the need to risk getting burnt.

References and further reading

  • The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)
  • NHS Choices
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

2 September 2016
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