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The importance of vitamin D

Oct 28, 2018 | Eat |

The In-Sync Diet is turning its attention to the importance of vitamin D as the clocks have just gone back and we see less of the sun.  What this means is an end to British Summertime, shorter days and much longer nights until March.

The importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin.  We produce vitamin D from cholesterol when strong sunlight hits our skin. Typically in the Northern Hemisphere, we are not able to produce vitamin D in this way through the winter months.  Whilst food sources such as egg yolks and oily fish can provide some vitamin D even a healthy diet is unlikely to produce enough for our needs during this time.

This is made worse for those of us in the northern hemisphere because of our increased use of high sun protection factor sunscreens during the summer months, the time we spend indoors, and general fear of the sun promoted by the media. Reports by the press give the impression that it is exposure to the sun itself, rather than the act of getting sunburned, that causes skin cancer. This is at best incorrect and at worst extremely detrimental to health to hold that belief. Without the sun, life on earth would cease to exist.

In terms of our evolutionary history, first came the sun and then us.  What this means is that vitamin D is one of the oldest nutrients on earth and affects most functions in the body.  It maintains the health of bones and teeth, supports our immune system, brain function and nervous system and even helps prevent obesity.  Immediate symptoms can include fatigue, low mood and weight gain.


Health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency

Studies show that those with a serum level of vitamin D that is less than75 nmol/L, which is the standard measurement on a blood test,  are more likely to suffer reduced immune function during the winter and spring.  This means that they are less able to fight the viruses and bacteria that they are exposed to during this time.

Alongside a weakened immune system, vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to susceptibility to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cognitive decline, some cancers and autoimmune disease.

For those of you who do not have access to sunshine i.e. at least fifteen minutes of warm sun on naked skin daily, we advise that you take a vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement.

The Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5000 IU/day (125 mcg/day), children 1000 IU/day (25 mcg/day) per 25 lbs (11 kg) of body weight and infants 1000 IU/day (25 mcg/day).