Superdrug wants to remind people that now is the ideal time of yer to take a Vitamin D supplement. We caught up with Superdrug's ambassador Dr Pixie McKenna to ask her about the importance of taking a vitamin D supplement as the nights get darker.
What is vitamin D for those who don't know and how does it benefit the body?
We source vitamin D via sun exposure, you would need to drink 10 glasses of Vitamin D fortified milk a day to even come close to your daily requirement.
At this time of the year when most of us are probably deficient or have insufficient levels, the symptoms include things like aches and pains, you might feel quite tired or run down. It varies between person to person. Some people might feel absolutely fine but actually they have a low level of Vitamin D.
Essentially- as a nutrient in the body- what it does is it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate that we have. These are essential chemical components of our bones but other structures too like our teeth and our muscles- it maintains them and keep them healthy.
I read that it helps to regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management- how does it do this?
There is evidence to support the ability of Vitamin D to improve insulin sensitivity which has positive benefits in terms of Diabtetes but this is not just a vitamin for those who have Diabetes or those who are at risk it is a Vitamin for everyone. This is because the majority of the UK population probably have either low of insufficiency levels or are likely to develop them as the winter progresses.
Although we had a good summer- we use up our Vitamin D resources. If you can imagine- during the summer- you are saving up your Vitamin D because you get loads of it from the sunshine but by the time you get to this time of the year you have already dipped into your resources and many of us are deficient.
How much should we take a day?
Depending on your age- most adults should probably take about 10 micrograms a day. The problem with Vitamin D is that many people just take it and they have no idea how much they are taking or it's mixed in with another multivitamin. Unless you have something that details on the back of the pack a certain level of Vitamin D- I would suggest you take an additional supplement if you are someone who takes supplements on a regular basis.
Why is particularly important for vegans to take vitamin D?
Whilst the Vegan diet is restrictive the majority of our Vitamin D resources do not come from diet. So whilst Vegans may be at a greater risk ultimately we are all at risk of this deficiency regardless of our diet because diet is not our main Vitamin D source.
Are there any natural, plant-based sources of vitamin D for vegans to eat in addition to taking the supplements?
You can get vitamin D in cereals- your straightforward, ordinary cereal with have Vitamin D in it. So you don't have to be fancy or go all out and get something exotic- most cereals with have fortified levels of Vitamin D. It's just a way of getting it into our diets.
With our exposure to the sun, we have a very different relationship with sun that we had even ten years ago. Most of us are very conscious about the sun and getting sun burned. Lots of us will wear sun protection 365 days of the year, which means we are not getting the rays, which are necessary for Vitamin D synthesis. It affects our naturally sourced supplies, which is why we need to supplement.
What are the long-term effects if someone has been low on vitamin d for a prolonged period of time?
We are seeing rickets in a lot of kids now- which we have never seen before. It's very old fashioned and from a long, long time ago but it seems to be coming back. One of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can be pain when you touch the Breast bone or aches as you get up out of a chair. Fatigue and feeling run down are also common as are generalised aches and pains. There is evidence to suggest that- long term- low levels of vitamin D will mean you are far more likely to develop things like MS, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, particular types of cancer, even depression. There is mounting evidence to suggest that maybe Vitamin D is in some way a factor in a way loads of these diseases have increased in the last decade or so. It certainly has long-term consequences. I guess the beauty of it is- if you take a Vitamin D supplement- unless you are exaggerating the amount that is detailed on the back of the packet, you are not really going to overdose. From that point of view- it's a safe supplement to take.
What is next for you?
What's next for me? Goodness me! A rest! I have started taking Vitamin D this year, I've put my husband on it too and I normally don't take anything.
I will have two books finished by the end of next month. I also have a show coming out soon about health on Channel Four.
The just general life- moving house, starting a new business- all crazy, crazy, crazy! Exhaustion probably by the time I hit Christmas!
Superdrug Vitamin D 12.5mcg x 90