Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as it is produced naturally when UV rays from the sun hit your skin. Unfortunately we have had a pretty, dismal summer here in the UK, so should you be thinking about vitamin D supplementation?.
Surveys in the UK have shown that more than half of the adult population in the UK has insufficient levels of vitamin D.
In the winter months 1 in 6 people has a severe deficiency and by March our levels of vitamin D are seriously depleted. This is because of our geographic location, people in the United Kingdom cannot synthesise vitamin D from November to the end of March.
It is estimated that about 9 in 10 adults of South Asian origin may be vitamin D-deficient. Most people affected either don’t have any symptoms, or may feel run down without really knowing the cause.
The need for vitamin D
Vitamin D has several important functions and is required by most cells within the body. For example, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.
Within recent years we have seen a rise in the number of reported cases of rickets among children, which is linked to a lack of vitamin D. This is because children are increasingly exposed to less sunlight due to indoor and sedentary lifestyles (computer games), and because of official advice to protect ourselves and children from skin cancer by covering up totally in the sun.
Vitamin D has been linked to a large number of health conditions within the last few years and is becoming an increasingly important nutrient to be aware of. “Vitamin D affects cell death and proliferation, insulin production, and even the immune system,” says Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D., director of the vitamin D, skin, and bone research laboratory at the Boston University Medical Center. Studies have indicated that a lack of vitamin D can be linked to depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancers and MS.
Vitamin D promotes normal cell growth throughout your body, maintaining hormone balance and a healthy immune system.
Vitamin D and weight loss
When vitamin D is deficient our cells are not able to behave properly, leaving you vulnerable to a host of diseases including weight gain and obesity.
A study by Aberdeen university Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, (2008) showed that people who were overweight had lower levels of vitamin D. The study found that low levels of vitamin D in the blood interfered with the function of a hormone called Leptin, Leptin (from the Greek word meaning ‘thin’) plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure and helps to regulate your appetite.
Researchers at Aberdeen University found that obese people produced 10% less vitamin D than people of average weight. The study also found that excess body fat absorbs vitamin D, stopping it from entering the blood stream. Another Study (Ortega RM, Aparicio A, et al, Br J Nutr 2008) which used 60 overweight/obese women aged 20-35 years that had adhered to a low calorie diet, showed that those with higher vitamin d levels lost more weight and fat. This is a great incentive to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D!
Sources of vitamin D
Unfortunately Vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, these include: salmon, eggs, fortified milk and fortified products such as cereal (which are often loaded with sugar).
What you can do
Levels of vitamin D in the blood are easy to assess with a simple blood test. A blood test for vitamin D can be very useful; it can help establish your current vitamin D levels which can help you figure out how much vitamin D you need, or whether the sun exposure you get and/or the supplements you take are providing optimal levels.
Most experts now agree that supplementation is currently the safest and most effective method of achieving optimal vitamin D status. It is recommend that you take between 10mcg to 20mcg a day throughout winter months. Make sure the label reads “D3.” This is the same type the skin makes, but some companies still use D2, a plant-based form of the vitamin that the body doesn’t metabolize as easily.
Try to get out in the sun (when it comes out) for around 15 minutes three times a week exposing bare arms and legs.
If you’d like to know more about whether you might be vitamin D deficient or how you can optimise your vitamin D levels, please call us on 07980739159 for a chat or email Natalie@divinenutrition.co.uk