Are you getting enough vitamin D?

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Experts are saying that taking a vitamin D supplement could be more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic

Spring typically sees the UK shift towards longer, sunnier days which can give our vitamin D3 levels a boost.  However, this year UK residents face prolonged periods indoors as the government enforces a lockdown to try and reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

Vitamin D3 has been shown to be vital in the development of healthy bones and muscles, as well as being a factor in preventing other conditions.
The most well-known consequence of a vitamin D deficiency is the development of rickets. Once rickets was considered to be a problem of the past but, according to the NHS, UK cases of rickets disease have increased in recent years.

What causes vitamin D deficiencies?

The deficiency could be because children are spending more time indoors instead of running around outside, more British women are covering themselves up with suncream, the burqa or niqab and some of our ageing population is housebound. It’s also a geographical problem because in northern climes, the sun isn’t strong enough during the winter months for our bodies to manufacture enough, so we need to catch those rays during the summer.

Anecdotally, there is also a prevalance for some black women not to go out into the sun ‘because they’d get too black.’

All this avoidance, for whatever reason, means that we are missing out on the vital goodness of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D has recently been shown to lower the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and several types of cancer – conditions that people of African-Caribbean heritage are predisposed to.

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Not only have Public Health England recommended the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D to the population during lockdown, but a study by the BMJ showed that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of contracting respiratory tract infections. It showed that those taking a daily dose of vitamin D were 19% less likely to get an infection and in those deficient of vitamin D, after supplementing they were 70% less likely to be infected!

In his YouTube video Vitamin D and Immunity, Dr John Campbell, supports this theory and says that vitamin D may reduce the risk of contracting respiratory tract bacterial/viral infections and could also make those infections less serious. And that anyone with a darker skin living in the Northern hemisphere should consider taking vitamin D supplements, as the melanin (which protects our skin from the harmful UV rays) is preventing our bodies from making enough vitamin D.

Foods rich in vitamin D | Image by Shutterstock

We make 90% of our vitamin D through sunlight and only 10% is from our diets. It is the only vitamin that we can’t get enough of in food. Although it’s available in oily fish, eggs and added to breakfast cereals, spreads and powdered milk, our bodies manufacture most of it when we directly expose our skin to sunlight. And in Northern latitude countries, continuous sunlight is a rare occurrence. Meaning that much of the time, a large percentage of the UK population is vitamin D deficient.

The NHS guidelines say that for Caucasians, 15 minutes each day, in the mid-day sun (without sunscreen) during summer, with the majority of the body exposed would be required, to keep levels optimal. For people with darker skin, exposure times ranges from 30 minutes to an hour.

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The NHS also recommends that those of African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian origin, should take at least 10mg of vitamin D a day. Though some experts say that those amounts are designed to avoid absolute deficiency as opposed to providing enough to achieve optimal levels.

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