One hundred years ago, this year, it was found vitamin D deficiency was linked to rickets (Buttriss & Lanham-New, 2022). The importance of vitamin D supplements in the winter is a message often passed around at this time of the year, but for some people, this should be year round.
Vitamin D is something that we cannot get enough of through diet alone, so we rely on the sun to aid vitamin D production. In order for the body to make enough vitamin D, you need expose your legs/forearms to UVB light (sunshine), but as sunlight is reduced in the winter months in the UK, we are unable to get enough sunlight
So, what can we do in these times when sunlight is not available, to ensure we aren’t deficient in vitamin D? Of course there are some foods that contain vitamin D, such as mushrooms, egg yolks, oily fish, and various meats. However, we cannot get enough from our diet alone, so the NHS advise taking a vitamin D supplement from September to March/April, in the UK.
I mentioned in the start of this blog that some may need to supplement year-round, so who are they? Some people who are confined to the indoors, or only go out when dark, such as shift workers, are unable to achieve the sunlight exposure needed to make sufficient amount of vitamin D. You may be thinking this group sounds a lot like healthcare professionals, and you would be right. A lot of hospital workers will work long hours or work lofts of night shifts, meaning that they are unlikely to see a lot of sunlight, so they may need to consider taking vitamin D year-round. Others that may need to consider supplementing vitamin D all year are those with darker skin, because of naturally higher melanin in the outer layer of the skin reduces vitamin D3 synthesis. Supplementation may also be considered for those who rarely expose skin to sunlight, such as those who wear burka, or wear excessive amounts of sun cream.
There are a lot of supplements out there, but they will differ in micrograms. The NHS recommend following doses for the following ages:
- Adults over the age of 4 should consume a 10 microgram Vitamin D supplement
- Breastfed babies and babies that consume less than 500ml of formula milk should consume a 8.5 microgram Vitamin D supplement
So, make sure that you, and your loved ones are getting all the vitamin D they need, no matter the circumstances!
Buttriss, J.L. and Lanham‐New, S.A., 2022. Vitamin D: One hundred years on. Nutrition Bulletin, 47(3), pp.282-287.