Are you getting enough vitamin D?

Posted: July 29, 2016

Why you might need to take a supplement

We all know the British weather is unreliable, but it's now emerged that, because of a lack of sunshine, we may not be getting enough vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is made in the skin by the action of sunlight and this is the main source of vitamin D for most people.

Referring to research carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), Public Health England (PHE) is advising that, in order to protect bone and muscle health, everyone needs vitamin D equivalent to an average daily intake of 10 micrograms. 

In spring and summer, the majority of the population get enough vitamin D through sunlight on the skin and a healthy, balanced diet.

But during autumn and winter everyone will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D.

Since it is difficult for people to meet the 10 microgram recommendation from consuming foods naturally containing or fortified with vitamin D, people should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D in autumn and winter. 

People whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, like those in care homes, or who always cover their skin when outside, risk vitamin D deficiency and need to take a supplement throughout the year.

Ethnic minority groups with dark skin, from African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer and therefore should consider taking a supplement all year round.

Children aged one to four years should have a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement.

PHE recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until around six months of age.

As a precaution, all babies under one year should have a daily 8.5-10 microgram vitamin D supplement to ensure they get enough.

Children who have more than 500ml of infant formula a day do not need any additional vitamin D as formula is already fortified. 

Vitamin D supplements are available free-of-charge for low-income families on the Healthy Start scheme.

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, both needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

It is found naturally in a small number of foods including oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks and in fortified food like breakfast cereals and fat spreads.

Further information

Please see NHS Choices > Vitamin D.

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