It is a great time to start thinking about your Vitamin D levels. Why? Because the sun is one of the best sources of Vitamin D and we do not get sufficient sun in this beautiful green Island of ours. The increased awareness and benefits of Vitamin D is long overdue and should be welcomed. Government advice and respected international medical advice for once agree on the benefits of Vitamin D particularly in the last 12 months.
Vitamin D benefits bones, immunity, skin, blood pressure, mood, brain function and our body’s overall ability to protect against a range of illnesses.
The link between low Vitamin D in patients and the higher risk of experiencing more severe symptoms of Covid 19 was highlighted in a study carried out in 2020 by the Royal College of Physicians.
“Vitamin D reduces the severity of COVID-19 in regard to pneumonia/ARDS, inflammation, inflammatory cytokines and thrombosis, it is our opinion that supplements would offer a relatively easy option to decrease the impact of the pandemic.’’
Vitamin D also described as the “Sunshine Vitamin” is a fat soluble Vitamin that is present in small amounts of food. As mentioned above, sunshine is the main natural source of Vitamin D. Exposure to UV light generates change inside the human body, including an increase in Vitamin D levels. It is considered an “essential “nutrient because the human body cannot make it on its own, without the help of food and sunlight. Calcium and Vitamin D are two valuable micronutrients that work collectively in the body to maintain overall health.
Research articles published by Sage Journals and Journals of Investigative Medicine show that low levels of vitamin D have been identified in cancer patients as well as patients with cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis and obesity. Vitamin D helps with healthy cell replication and plays a role in protecting against the development of autoimmune conditions, infections, viruses, colds and flu. Vitamin D benefits the overall immune function preventing the risk of prolonged or extreme inflammatory responses.
Bone Health: Vitamin D helps regulate the level of calcium and phosphate which are vital minerals in a healthy body. Calcium and phosphate are nutrients needed to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. The same nutrients prevent the risk of osteoporosis in later life and rickets in children.
Immune System Health: The presence of Vitamin D in our body increases our immune system’s ability to fight pathogens and bugs in the environment.
Mood – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): A change in mood during winter months can also be attributed to a decline in Vitamin D levels, sometimes associated with the absence of sunshine
So! How much Vitamin D?
Between April and September around 15-20 minutes exposure a day to direct sunlight can boost the level of Vitamin D in the body.
Between October and March, the UV levels from the sun over Ireland and the UK are much reduced and as a consequence make a smaller contribution to Vitamin D levels.
Recommended dietary guidelines for Vitamin D levels in the body:
Age 1 to 70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg) per day.
70 years and over: 800 IU (20mcg) per day.
Some groups are at a particularly high risk of Vitamin D deficiency:
- individuals with dark skin (of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian ethnic origin)
- infants aged under 5 and older people aged 65 and upwards
- individuals who are confined indoors
- individuals who have no or limited exposure to the sun including people who cover their skin for cultural reasons.
The main food source of Vitamin D is fish. Oily fish in particular; salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies etc. Eating at least two portions of fish a week (140g each) is recommended. One of those portions should be an oily fish. If you don’t like eating fish a cod liver oil supplement will help with Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is also found in:
- egg yolk (eggs enriched with vitamin D has 10 x more vitamin D than normal eggs)
- red meat, liver in particular
- some cheeses
- fortified milk
- fortified breakfast cereals
Another great way to top up our Vitamin D reserves is a Vitamin D supplement. Consider taking Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) instead of D2 (ergocalciferol) form. Some reports suggest D3 is easier and more efficient to absorb into the body.
Consult your GP: Have Vitamin D levels checked every 6 months.
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