Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements, advises Public Health England (PHE).
To protect bone and muscle health, everyone needs vitamin D equivalent to an average daily intake of 10 micrograms states a government commissioned report. This advice is based on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced in the skin in response to the UVB rays present in sunlight.
Only 10% of our daily vitamin D intake comes from our diet with 90% being derived from sunlight. The best time to produce vitamin D from sunlight in the UK is believed to be from March to October, however even in the British summer we often don't get enough sunshine to produce our daily requirement.
PHE now recommends that during autumn and winter, everyone will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D and as it is difficult for people to meet the 10 microgram recommendation from food alone, people should consider taking a daily supplement.
The vitamin D synthesis is also inhibited by ageing, lack of sunshine or covering up with clothes. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, people with darker skin pigmentation, young children and elderly people may also have inadequate UV exposure.
The power of the sunshine vitamin
It is important to make sure our bodies have enough of this essential vitamin, to gain from its many health benefits:
Support your bones and muscles
Vitamin D is critical to the health of bones and teeth: without vitamin D, calcium cannot be effectively absorbed by your body. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in bone and muscle pain, poor bone mineralisation and a greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures as we age.
Mental health and well-being
If you feel tired or low you could be in need of a vitamin D boost. There are links between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in autumn and continues throughout winter. Symptoms include feeling sad or anxious, fatigue, concentration problems and irritability. Although the exact cause is unknown, studies have suggested that it may be triggered by a lack of sunlight.
Boost your immunity
Vitamin D can stimulate the body's production of anti-viral and anti-bacterial proteins, making it an effective nutrient to boost immunity and protect against colds and flu. People with low levels of vitamin D are 40% more likely to report respiratory infections. Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with increased risk of auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
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