Vitamin D has another 15mins of fame – first it was reducing bone and muscle pain, now it’s supporting immunity. Can this vitamin really pack such a big punch?

Vitamin D should be supplemented, particularly throughout Winter months (October – March in the UK) and certainly now if you are inside more than you would normally be and have less time in the sun.

How much, how often, and can you obtain vitamin D from foods?

Public Health England previously stated vitamin D is essential for health of bone, muscle, and teeth. In clinical trials vitamin D prevented/reduced the incidence of rickets, whilst surprisingly to many people it also reduced joint and bone pain (osteomalacia). Typically people found reduced discomfort in the long bones (hips and knees) and anecdotally we hear from people experiencing reduced pain even in the smaller bones in their hands.

A report which was recently published in the British Medical Journal claimed vitamin D is also beneficial in reducing the incidence of colds or flu by creating holes in bacteria and viruses. Contributors also suggested foods should be fortified with the vitamin (milk is fortified in the US). The systematic review found one person would be spared infection for every 33 people taking a vitamin D supplement, compared to one person in 40 receiving the flu vaccination. Additional benefits were found in people taking the supplement daily rather than large monthly doses. It’s impact on immunity seems to be gaining interest, and that’s why we include it in one of our seminars Supporting your immunity.

Where do you get vitamin D from?

By far the best source of vitamin D is from the sun UVB rays. If however we take the UK (in particular the South of the UK) the UVB rays are insufficient for our bodies to make vitamin D between the months October to March.

The suggested amount of sun exposure between April – September is 20 minutes per day to the face and arms. However this is an approximation – fairer skin people may require less time in the sun, and darker skin people will require longer. Obviously caution with excess sun exposure increasing the risk of skin cancer. Wearing sun cream (check moisturisers and make-up too) will limit the amount of UVB rays absorbed, as will clothing. People with darker skin should consider taking the supplements all year round as they may require longer than 20 minutes sun exposure.

Where possible include foods which contain vitamin D (eggs, red meat, oily fish e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel) as part of your regular balanced diet, but evidence suggests food alone is insufficient to provide the amount of vitamin D we require.

How much and how often?

The supplement guidance is 10mcg daily during the Winter months. People particularly at high risk of vitamin D deficiency are babies, pregnancy women, the elderly (formula fed babies may not need supplementation if their formula may already contain vitamin D).

There are risks associated with taking too much vitamin D as a supplement – over the long term it may cause more calcium to be absorbed by the body leading to high calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia) damaging kidneys and the heart. As with all medicine and supplements dose as directed, and consult a GP if unsure.

Link to article on BBC

A reminder:

  • The information in this article is for educational purposes and should not replace medical advice.
  • The information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
  • If you have a diagnosed medical condition, you should consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet, and;
  • Some supplements may interact with medications and you should check with your GP before commencing any supplement programme.
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