WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH VITAMIN D, by Alice Mackintosh
It’s hard to know who or what to believe these days when it comes to our health and specifically our diets. As new light is thrown on old evidence, which seems to contradict information that many previously took as gospel, the overall confusion about what we should and shouldn’t be doing grows.
Recently, the media has turned it’s attention to whether or not we should be taking supplements. Many hold the belief that if you follow a well balanced diet there should be no need for supplements and whilst there is no replacement for a healthy diet, the reality is that the modern life is a fast-paced, often hectic affair and taking the right supplements can assist you in your quest for balance. This is especially the case for those who don’t feel their best on a day-to-day basis - low energy, frequent colds of infections, poor sleep, problem skin, bloating... It’s a familiar story isn’t it?
What is it and why do we need it?
Vitamin D is possibly one of the most important nutrients in the body, and sadly the diet, however healthy, does little to deliver enough. Back in August, headlines suggested that even the NHS has reformed it’s thinking and in the UK we all need daily supplementation during the winter months. So here are some of the facts to help you make an informed decision about vitamin D supplements and whether you actually need them.
Most people know about vitamin D because it is associated with sun. It is produced in our bodies by sunlight acting on the skin, kicking off a series of physiological conversions that result in synthesis of vitamin D. It’s in this form that it promotes and stimulates calcium absorption and helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the body. This is important for ensuring healthy teeth, bones and muscle, and is also essential for mood, memory, hormone balance and beyond.
How much do we need?
The recommendation for adults is 10mcg a day and throughout March to September we should be able to produce enough without supplementing if we spend 20 minutes per day in direct sunlight, without SPF. However, we all know that summer doesn’t always mean sunshine and blue skies, so what steps can we take to ensure we still get enough?
Diet: Oily fish is a good dietary source and some foods are fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals (sadly the latter are often processed and refined, and full of sugar – check the label!)
Supplements: Public Health England is now recommending adults and even children take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, especially during autumn and winter.
Supplements: safe or necessary?
Having excess vitamin D in your body over a long period of time could increase calcium levels too much, potentially leading to liver, kidney and bone damage. However, with a limit of 100mcg and other studies showing that even as much as 250mcg a day doesn't cause toxicity, it’s unlikely to be a problem for most people.
As busy urbanites with fast paced jobs, often involving long hours and endless meetings, not to mention that early morning workout, the trend of modern living is leaning towards more indoor lifestyles. Couple this with the fact that we’re actively avoiding the sun due to other medical advice, it is no wonder that many aren’t getting as much vitamin D as they should be. Recent figures reflect this, with deficiency becoming more prevalent.
Signs of deficiency
While the signs may be subtle, muscle, joint and bone pain or weakness could mean you have vitamin D deficiency. Thyroid issues, poor immunity, changes to mood, seasonal effective disorder (SAD) and low energy are also common side effects.
There are also people in risk groups who could be more prone to deficiencies such as strict vegans, people with milk allergies, people with dark skin and from African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds who may want to consider a daily supplement year round. You may also want to consider daily supplementation if you are not outdoors often or cover up in the sun.
What should I supplement with?
Of course, all Equi products contain the Government’s recommended daily dose of Vitamin D with a host of other nutrients to keep you fighting fit this winter.
We recommend getting tested first through your GP. You an also send off for home testing kits – this is 100% worth doing to know how much vitamin D you need to take.
- If you don’t want to do a test, a safe dose is 400iu/10mg over winter months.
- If you are low in vitamin D, you can take up to 2000iu/50mgfor 2 months before retesting.
Always choose D3 cholecalciferol form as other forms, such as D2 are not recognised by the body.
Disclaimer: Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.