Our bodies produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight but 10 million of us Brits are simply not getting enough. That's about one in five adults and one in six children with low levels of Vitamin D. With the clocks having sprung forwards, now is a good time to enjoy those extra daylight hours.
From October to April, our Vitamin D levels are naturally reduced. The winter sun is too weak and not of the right wavelength for us to use effectively to make vitamin D. Proving how important sunlight is, statistics show 8% of adults have a Vitamin D deficiency in the summer compared to 39% in winter.
The extra hour of daylight during the spring and summer gives you more opportunity to be outside before or after work and ultimately more sunlight hours = more Vitamin D.
A lack of Vitamin D is associated with weight gain, so if you spend a lot of time indoors then you could be affected.
Dr Sally Norton, consultant surgeon and weight loss expert at Spire, The Glen Hospital Bristol, and founder of Vavista.com, gives us the lowdown on why Vitamin D is so important:
Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. It helps our bones to mineralise, keeping them hard and strong. In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly because of poor bone health. Getting your vitamin D levels right should be a lifestyle priority.
It is also necessary for the formation, growth and repair of our bones - which is why it is so important for young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women to have an adequate level of Vitamin D. When we don't get enough Vitamin D, it can ultimately lead to a condition called rickets in children, and weaker bones in adults.
The benefits of Vitamin D don't stop there. Research has suggested Vitamin D aids our immune system - and has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Deficiency also appears to be linked with obesity and depression.
Who is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
Any one of us could become Vitamin D deficient without the right levels of sunlight, or a supplement. However, for some groups of people it is especially important they get the right levels of Vitamin D - either because they are more at risk of deficiency or because their need is greater. These groups are:
- Children under 5
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- People over 65
- People with low, or no exposure to the sun
- People with darker skin
How much Vitamin D should I be getting?
The recommended daily amount of Vitamin D is around 10 micrograms/day (400 IU) for an adult. For babies and young children, the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D is 7 - 8.5 micrograms. Don't think that more is better - overdoing it could cause side effects.
How do I get the right levels of Vitamin D?
We've established that sunlight is a key component for your body to naturally produce Vitamin D so get outdoors at every opportunity - fresh air and exercise have numerous other benefits too.
You should also eat plenty of oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, and eggs as these are good sources of vitamin D. They also offer strong levels of omega 3 and protein, so are worth making part of your diet.
Also consider taking a supplement during the winter months at least, and perhaps all year round if you are in a higher-risk group.
If you think you could be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, then you could speak to your doctor, who may be able to run a routine test to check on your Vitamin D levels.
For more information about weight loss consultations with Sally at Spire The Glen Hospital Bristol visit, http://www.spirehealthcare.com/bristol/our-facilities-treatments-and-consultants/our-consultants/miss-sally-norton/
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