We make vitamin D ourselves from being under direct sunlight.
I don’t think most of us realise just how much of a superstar vitamin D is. Its support for teeth and bone health usually spring to mind. But its role in our health is so much bigger than that. Almost every cell in our body has vitamin D receptors, meaning it’s used in virtually every biochemical reaction that underlines our wellbeing. It’s important for our brains, hearts, reproduction, digestion, detoxification and immunity. So it’s understandable that the rate of deficiency in the UK raised alarm bells.
Ordinarily, we make vitamin D ourselves from being under direct sunlight. You can also find it in some foods such as oily fish, offal meats, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified cereals. The problem is that we just don’t get enough sunlight all year round. Also, we’ve lost our appetite for liver pate and sardines. Gulp. Thank God for vitamin D supplements!
The British weather is so unpredictable (I’m known for carrying an umbrella in my handbag even on the sunniest of days). But if we’re lucky, it’s estimated that from April through to September we should have sufficient amounts of sunshine to make Vitamin D. Providing we allow the rays to make contact with our bare skin. So does this mean that we should stop supplementing with it during this time? If only it were that simple.
If you’ve been diagnosed as deficient then you should supplement with vitamin D all year round and follow up with your GP from time to time. But supplementation during the summer isn’t limited to people with known deficiencies. Avid sunscreen wearers, office workers that don’t get to enjoy the sunshine, people on medications such as statins, the elderly (65 years and older) and those with dark skin poorly make vitamin D from direct sunlight. So it’s likely that these groups of people would benefit from supplementing all year too.
How much should you supplement with?
The standard recommendation is 10 micrograms a day. For 97.5% of the population that dose will maintain a concentration of 25nmol/L of vitamin D in the blood. The reality is that for most people, 25 nmol/L isn’t enough for optimal wellbeing. It’s challenging to know exactly how much you need without having an idea of your current status. Some people require as much as 100 nmol/L. But there are risks to blind supplementation of this vitamin. Vitamin D is a fat soluble, meaning that the body is capable of preserving stores. So it is possible to take too much. If you suspect that you are deficient, I highly recommend visiting your GP or a Registered Nutritional Therapist for a test. It’s relatively inexpensive (approximately £40) and will give you peace of mind of how much vitamin D you need.
Regardless, as the summer winds to the end, it’s definitely worth supplementing with vitamin D at least until April next year.
Kay Ali is our Head of Nutrition at Bare Biology. She has over ten years experience working in the health industry and is a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine.