Vitamin D – why it’s important


There is a growing interest around Vitamin D and its effects on people’s health.

Vitamin D is crucial to regulate the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphate which contributes to forming and maintaining healthy bones. Maintaining an adequate concentration of vitamin D is important for children, teenagers and for pregnant women, to help keep their bones healthy and so that their babies are born with enough vitamin D in their bodies for the first few months of life. For adults over 50, the evidence overall suggests that vitamin D supplementation improves muscle strength and function.

How vitamin D is produced?
We can get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure, but we can also get some from food or dietary supplements, which are essential when sunlight exposure is limited. In the UK, sunlight-induced vitamin D  production is only effective between late March/early April and September but not from October onwards throughout the winter months.

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Different groups of people in the UK are at greater risk of deficiency:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • children under 5 years of age
  • people aged 65 and over
  • people who have darker skin or are at limited exposure to the sun; for example, those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, are housebound or who stay indoors for long periods

In order to protect musculoskeletal health, the recommendation is that vitamin D levels of all individuals in the UK should not fall below certain levels at any time of the year and therefore a supplementation of vitamin D is recommended  for those aged  four years old and above during the winter months.

How could vitamin D level be implemented?
The two major forms of vitamin D are vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Few food sources are naturally rich in vitamin D. Significant amounts of vitamin D are mostly available in foods of animal origin like egg yolk; oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines; animal products such as meat, fat, liver and kidney; and wild mushrooms, which are a rich natural source of vitamin D2.

Foods fortified with vitamin D are widely available in breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milks and fat spreads, as well as dietary vitamin D supplements which contain either vitamin D2 or D3. The prescription for those supplements should be reviewed by clinicians to avoid high intake of vitamin D and its potential toxic consequences.

If you are not sure whether you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, or don’t know which supplements to take, speak to your GP.

Article kindly provided by +richmondpractice

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