With as much as 27% of people have an insufficient or deficient levels of Vitamin D, and 74% of people below the optimum level of Vitamin D for wellbeing, we look into why we should be taking Vitamin D supplements, especially in the winter season.
For many, the winter months mean either leaving for work in the dark, coming home in the dark and spending all day in an office lit by fluorescent lights, or working from home and not leaving your home office. Without the blue skies of summer, your skin isn’t soaking up much sunlight for your body to create vitamin D.
First, the physiology. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium – a key ingredient in keeping bones strong. Severe deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults where the bones are softened. Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can range from depression, hair loss, fatigue, muscle pain and recurring infections.
Recently it was found that every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, and so the benefits of maintaining a healthy level could be more than we currently realise. This is why studies into the impact of vitamin D are experiencing a boom at the moment.
You can get vitamin D from dietary sources like fatty fish and leafy greens, but not enough to provide what you need in the winter. Supplements seem like the ideal solution, however, there is the risk of taking too much. Vitamin D isn’t a nutrient that will simply flush away if your body gets too much of it. As it helps with the absorption of calcium, too much vitamin D may mean that calcium ends up in other parts of the body. You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you're out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
How much should you take daily? From about late March/early April to the end of September, the majority of people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin.
Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Babies up to the age of 1 year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.
So should you consider taking a vitamin D supplement? If you’re sensible and are only consuming 10mcg per day with not too much calcium, you should be okay. Between October and March you have little chance of being able to get the vitamin D from your diet or the sun alone, so it’s worth thinking about it. Although, it's always worth considering consulting your doctor to find the best plan for you.