Sophie Murray, Head of Nutrition and Hydration at Gracewell Healthcare
In 2012, in partnership with the UK Health Department the government released guidelines on increasing vitamin D intake, with a specific focus on “at risk” groups.
The National Diet and Nutrition Survey has concluded that up to 1/5 of adults and 24% children are thought to be low in vitamin D. Soon enough, the National Institute of Clinical Evidence (NICE) were issued to improve health outcomes. Whilst advice had already been issued since 1991 on the benefits of Vitamin D on bone health, a greater awareness of the true extent of the issue has been revealed.
So, who would we define as “being at risk?” and in need of supplements?
These groups include:
- People over the age of 65
- Infants under the age of 4
- People who have low or no exposure to sunlight
- People with darker skin
- Those on special diets, such as those avoiding nuts, fish or dairy
What exactly is Vitamin D?
Unlike other vitamins, Vitamin D is a precursor to a hormone which the skin converts for use in the body. It is a nutrient made by our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight, it and is essential to overall health. Vitamin D works with phosphorus – another essential mineral in the body and we need Vitamin D to absorb calcium.
We also need magnesium to convert Vitamin D, as well as zinc for correct utilisation. We also can receive Vitamin D from body sources, as well as foods including oily fish, egg yolks, milk and some fortified cereals. But you would need to eat two to four servings of wild salmon per day to correct any deficiency, as well as one portion to meet just the basic recommendations for health maintenance!
So, when we can’t get a full quota of vitamin D from our food, we rely on Vitamin D stores in the body. Whilst we cannot look at Vitamin D in isolation, as with any aspect of health, we may need to pay slightly more attention to the vitamin in order to ensure we’re gaining enough.
What do supplements have to do with it?
Like any product, the quality of Vitamin D differs in supplements. There are 2 forms of Vitamin D: D2 and D3. It’s important to recognise that D3 is more readily absorbed by the body.
What happens to the body when we have a Vitamin D deficiency?
Recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), the amount of a nutrient considered necessary for the maintenance of good health, were originally introduced to protect soldiers against deficiency. Nevertheless, they still have a very important role to play today.
Vitamin D deficiency carries many health risks, including: rickets, osteoporosis (fragile bones), brittle bone disease and general aches and pains.
Signs and symptoms of a deficiency can include getting sick often, fatigue and tiredness, bone, back and muscle pain and impaired wound healing. Essentially, it’s so important to do all you can to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D!
No matter your age, boosting your Vitamin D exposure is something that your body (and bones) will surely thank you for.