What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is viewed as more of a multifunctional hormone that a vitamin.
Vitamin D receptors are found all over the body including cells of the skin, muscles, thyroid, brain and central nervous system, adrenal glands, colon, and prostate and breast. This fits with growing evidence that Vitamin D’s effects on the body are truly widespread and substantial.
Vitamin D is best known for getting calcium from our diets into our bones but it also plays a role in immunity, heart health, hormone health, depression, pain, cancer and keeping blood sugar levels stable.
What are the risks of deficiency?
Deficiency can cause rickets in young children and weak bones in adults. It’s also been associated with increased risk of multiple sclerosis, diabetes, infections and some cancers.
Strong associations between vitamin D deficiency and severe covid symptoms have been noted in the UK and Ireland as well as internationally. This is thought to be due to the vitamin’s role in regulating the immune response.
Studies have found that amongst children, teenagers and adults in Ireland, 35-64% of people are deficient in vitamin D, depending on age and other factors. In the UK, research suggests that around 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 5 children are deficient.
Don’t assume that your GP has tested your levels when doing standard blood tests – its an expensive test and not usually included unless requested (and is often refused!)
Don’t we get enough from the sun?
From April -September in Ireland and the UK it’s possible to make enough vitamin D with 10-15 minutes of daily sun exposure on arms and legs (without sunscreen, and in the middle of the day, therefore being mindful not to burn).
From October to April the sun’s rays aren’t the right shape to activate vitamin D production in the body so supplements are needed
It’s pretty easy to increase our vitamin D levels with supplements!
Some foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified foods also contribute to our vitamin D levels but this is rarely enough to meet the body’s needs.
Most children and adults need to supplement with 10mcg (400IU) vit D daily to prevent low vitamin D levels, at least throughout the colder months.
Many people will need to supplement all year round, for example people with darker skin tones, people who don’t get out in the sun daily, people with gut absorption issues and older adults. Some may need a higher dose – check with your doctor or other healthcare professional.