VITAMIN D - ARE YOU DEFICIENT?

DO YOU KNOW YOUR NUMBER?

50% of the UK population are vitamin D deficient – do you know your number? We used to think that vitamin D was mainly important for bone health, but now hardly a month goes by without another research report being published with yet more compelling evidence of the importance of this vitamin.

Signs that you are low

Serious and some potentially life threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases and even Alzheimer’s have all been associated with inadequate levels of vitamin D.

Apart from these more serious conditions other general symptoms include- general tiredness

- vague aches and pains and muscle weakness

- bone pain

- low mood and depression

Key sources of this nutrient

Food sources

These are limited to: oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines along with eggs, milk and shiitake mushrooms. There are also some fortified foods available such as juice and yoghurt.

Sunshine

You can top up really well by sitting in the sunshine but it is important that you do not use sunblock and are sensible about avoiding sunburn. People with darker skin have to spend longer in the sunshine to top up their levels.

For six months of the year, between October to April, much of Western Europe (including 90% of the UK) is too far north to have enough UVB rays in sunlight necessary to make vitamin D in the skin. So, many people in the UK are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D during these months unless they get it from other sources.

Supplements

Another option is to use a supplement, NHS guidelines state a maximum of 1000iu per day and it is probably best not to deviate from this without the advice of a heath professional as it is certainly possible to have too much of a good thing. Vitamin D3 is the active form of the nutrient so may be more effective than other forms such as vitamin D2.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient so best taken as a supplement with your biggest meal of the day and one that includes a little fat. People who eat very low fat diets can be at greater risk of deficiency.

I frequently check vitamin D levels of the people who come to see me in clinic and very often find people are deficient. My advice, to minimise any health risks from this deficiency, is to get a blood test done to check and deal with any deficiency that you find. Given that 50% of the UK population is low in this vital nutrient it is highly likely to be a problem for you and it is easy to do something about it.