In focus: Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

Why do we need it?          

As winter draws in and summer sunshine is a distant dream, we should be thinking about how to maintain our body stores of Vitamin D. 

There’s good reason why vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin.” When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur.

Did you know that redheads are much better at manufacturing Vitamin D than other people!

Vitamin D is also found in food such as oily fish, eggs and butter.

If you were to compare how much you get from 30 minutes midday summer sun -10,000 IU- with how much you get from food, e.g. a piece of farmed salmon -330IU; or an egg 128 IU, you can see that relying on food is a tough call. Public Health England’s latest advice is that people should take a supplement of 400IU -800IU per day – which actually seems pretty low when you realise how much we get from the sun

But before we start thinking of dosage, maybe we should consider why we actually need Vitamin D. As well as strengthening our bones and muscle function and supporting our immune system, it’s now being linked to our sleep, mood, memory and brain function. It also helps insulin regulation, so helping diabetes management. Recent research  has established links between Vitamin D deficiency and other health issues like cancer, heart disease and auto immune disease.

Some people are at higher risk of having lower Vitamin D than others. These include:

  • Older people – the ability to make Vitamin D declines as we age
  • Pregnant women, breastfed babies, and children under the age of 5
  • Those who spend most of the time indoors or covered in clothes
  • Those with obesity as Vitamin D is stored in fat cells
  • Those with darker skin tone
  • Those living further north of the equator

Find out more on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/