Dr Ellie on why people should be taking Vitamin D supplements
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Vitamin D is one of the vital nutrients our bodies need to function properly. It helps to regulate how much phosphate and calcium we have, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. While we get most of the vitamin D we need from sun exposure, this can be difficult by the winter time.
As a result many Britons will find their vitamin D levels are low by February and March.
If you are deficient in vitamin D, it can lead to a number of problems such as fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness and mood changes.
To prevent becoming low in vitamin D over the winter, the NHS advises taking daily supplements.
This is supported by Becky Graham, a qualified nutritionist at Get More Vits, who spoke with Express.co.uk about the best ways to prevent a deficiency.
She explained: “Exposure to sunlight during the summer months provides us with the bare minimum levels of vitamin D, but during the winter months, with reduced access to sunlight as well as the position of the UK in the Northern hemisphere, means it’s impossible to get enough.
“If you add to this our predominantly indoor lifestyle and liberal use of sunscreen, then it’s no surprise that around 25 percent of the British population are deficient in vitamin D.”
If you decide to take supplements for this reason, Ms Graham recommended opting for those that contain vitamin D3 for “more nutritional bang”.
Vitamin D3 comes from animal sources and sunlight, whereas D2 comes from plants.
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Ms Graham said: “Most of us would benefit from supplementing with vitamin D, but you can get more nutritional bang for your buck by choosing supplements that contain vitamin D3, which is 87 percent more potent than the plant form of vitamin D2.
“Although the Government recommends 10ug/400IU per day, it is important to know that this is the level given to prevent disease rather than for optimal health.
“Supplements contain around 1,000IU to 4,000IU, which is also considered safe for humans.
“Those with a diagnosed deficiency may need a higher dose of vitamin D. Your GP can check your levels with a blood test and there are also private testing options available which you can do at home.”
The NHS advises not taking more than 4,000IU of vitamin D a day as it could be “harmful”.
Ms Graham shared other ways to boost your vitamin D intake.
“Spend as much time outside as possible,” she said.
“One study looking at Caucasian adults aged 20-60 in the UK explored the necessary time we must spend outdoors to obtain sufficient vitamin D levels year-round without being sunburnt.
“They calculated that nine minutes of direct sun exposure on the forearms and legs every day, specifically at lunchtime, were required between March and September for vitamin D levels to remain at the required ≥25 nmol/L throughout the winter.
“Another study found those with darker skin need 25 minutes per day during the same months. People over 60 are at a disadvantage, as they have a reduced capacity to manufacture vitamin D in the skin, so supplementing is advised.”
She added: “Eat vitamin D-containing foods
“Dietary sources that include the active form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are predominantly from animal origins such as beef liver, oily fish, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks and cheese.
“There is a small amount of vitamin D also found in pork, chicken, and turkey. To get enough to meet daily requirements, you would need to eat one large salmon fillet per day or 10 eggs, it is almost impossible to get enough from food alone.”
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