I’ve spent the last couple of weeks researching vitamin D for a presentation I’m doing as part of my ‘Nutrition Across the Lifespan module, so I thought I’d share my findings with you.
Sunshine, not food, is where most of our vitamin D comes from. It’s not like other vitamins in that it’s a pro hormone that requires UVB light for its synthesis in the skin and that’s why it’s sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Even if you eat a calcium rich diet without enough vitamin D your body can’t absorb the calcium into bones and cells where it is needed.
The British Dietetic Association states that if you go out in the sun two or three times a week for at least 15 minutes (before applying sun cream) your body will make enough vitamin D to last the whole year. In the northern hemisphere, like in the UK, the suns rays are only strong enough between April and September.
Evidence from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey confirms that in the UK the status of vitamin D is low in adults aged 19 – 64 and children aged 11 – 18 (both male and female) and that this has implications for bone health including an increased risk of rickets and osteomalacia.
There are a few dietary sources of vitamin D and they include:
- Oily fish such as salmon, pilchards, trout, sardines and kippers.
- Cod liver oil.
- Eggs, (yolks) meat and milk contain small amounts but this varies depending on the season.
- Margarine, some breakfast cereals, and some yogurts have added or ‘fortified’ vitamin D
Pregnant and breast-feeding women, babies and children, people over 65 years of age, and anyone whose skin is not exposed to the sun are at risk of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency and supplementation is recommended. Too much vitamin D however, can cause liver and bone problems so care needs to be taken. Anyone concerned about not getting enough vitamin D should speak to a Doctor or other health professional.
Sounds to me like a good excuse to make the most of being outside in the sun!