Nutrition Series: Vitamin D

It’s that time of the year, where we just don’t get enough sunlight! And if you read the headlines of many magazines, newspapers or hear conversations on the radio & TV, a major health topic that’s popular right now is Vitamin D! I thought I’d start a series where I share some info & tips regarding nutrition as I studied and MSc in Human Nutrition & absolutely loved it! This was definitely the perfect way to start this series off and I hope you enjoy! xx

What is Vitamin D? 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin! It can travel into your blood circulation and be stored in your body’s tissues. It is the only vitamin that can be produced in the body on its own, making it more of a hormone than a vitamin. There are actually 2 main forms of Vitamin D- D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol).

Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when UVB radiation is present. It can also be obtained from the diet, however that produced through our skin is the main source of this wonderful vitamin!

Why is it important? 

Vitamin D is required for regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism. It is therefore important for musculoskeletal health and Vitamin D deficiencies can often lead to Rickets, Osteomalacia, bone fracture, poor muscle strength, weak immunity and its deficiency is even linked with depression! Alongside these, Vitamin D may also help reduce menstrual pain and help prevent respiratory infections!

Where do we get it from?

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Our bodies can make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) rays. It is also found in foods such as eggs, mushrooms and oily fish. There are also some fortified food items such as breakfast cereals and fat spreads, however none of these really provide enough for our needs, meaning that the main source of Vitamin D is from the sun! However, as you may imagine – not all of us make enough Vitamin D, especially in the winter! This means that we may be deficient throughout the year! This leads me to my final point…

Should we be supplementing?

YES!…Unless you live near the equator (I’m very jealous!) during 1/2 of the year you just do not get enough sunlight to produce enough Vitamin D! In the UK, the crucial months of Vitamin D production are late March/early April up until September. A quick trick to find out if your body is synthesising Vitamin D is to walk outside when it’s sunny- if  your shadow in front of you is shorter than your height- your body is producing Vitamin D! That, unfortunately, means that between September and March – our bodies are using up any leftover stores and when those are gone- we become deficient in Vitamin D. That’s why it is recommended for all individuals to supplement with Vitamin D in the Fall-Winter season! Public Health England (PHE) advises that during autumn and winter people should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D. This is because although you can get some vitamin D from dietary sources, unfortunately it is very hard to get enough without supplementation!

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