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Health

Are you getting enough sunshine?

If not, supplements can boost your vitamin D

Statistics suggest up to 50 per cent of the UK population may be deficient in vitamin D due to lack of sufficient sun exposure (especially in the winter) so it is important to make sure you get your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it is produced in your skin in response to exposure to UVB rays present in sunlight. Only 10 per cent of our daily vitamin D intake comes from our normal diet, with 90 per cent of our daily requirement being derived from sunlight. The best time to produce vitamin D from sunlight in the UK is believed to be from March to October, particularly between 11am and 3pm. Bearing in mind the risks of UV rays, you should aim to get ten minutes of sun exposure once or twice a day as being outside on a bright summer’s day can enable your body to make 10,000 IU of Vitamin D.

The power of the sunshine vitamin

The many health benefits of vitamin D can be gained from supplementation, if we cannot get enough from sunlight:

• Support your bones and muscles Vitamin D is critical to the health of bones and teeth: without vitamin D, calcium cannot be effectively absorbed by your body. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in bone and muscle pain, poor bone mineralisation and a greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures as we age.

• Boost your immunity Vitamin D can stimulate the body’s production of anti-viral and anti-bacterial proteins, making it an effective nutrient to boost immunity and protect against colds and flu. People with low levels of vitamin D are 40 per cent more likely to suffer from respiratory infections. Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with increased risk of auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

• Mental health and well-being If you feel weary or low you could be in need of a vitamin D boost. There are links between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in autumn and lasts throughout the winter. Symptoms can include feeling sad, anxious, fatigue and irritability. Although the exact cause is unknown, studies have suggested it may be triggered by a lack of sunlight.

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, this includes:

• People who do not get much exposure to sunlight e.g. those who cover their skin or night shift workers

• People who have darker skin pigmentation need more time in the sun than someone with lighter skin to produce the same amount of vitamin D

• The elderly, as the capacity of our body to manufacture vitamin D is reduced with age

• Pregnant and breast-feeding women

• Young children, (aged six months to five years) an estimated 40 per cent of young children have insufficient vitamin D levels due to a decrease in time spent playing outdoors Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to conditions such as depression, chronic pain, asthma, osteoporosis and bone fractures. As a result, many people are turning to supplements to ensure they get enough of this essential vitamin.

Do you need more vitamin D? Have these tips helped? 

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