Vitamin D is essential for good health. By regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, Vitamin D supports healthy bones, teeth and muscle growth, as well as the immune system. But it’s not always easy to get enough of it.
Sunshine is the best natural source of Vitamin D, yet nearly two thirds of Brits have dangerously low levels – partly because it’s impossible to get the required amount of sunshine in autumn and winter in the UK.
Research by VEGA Nutritionals recently found that, after being tested, 53% of people in Scotland were Vitamin D deficient. It also shows that while 19% of Scots are aware of the government’s recommendation that everyone (adults and children aged five and over) in Scotland should take Vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, only 17% actually do.
The good news is that, according to the Scottish Government, the majority of people aged five years and above are likely to get sufficient Vitamin D between late March and September from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods naturally containing – or fortified with – Vitamin D.
Correctly-applied sunscreen blocks the synthesis of Vitamin D, however, so we can only absorb it while we are out in the sun without protection. Therefore, the Scottish Government recommends that 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sun exposure should be safe for everyone aged five and over to give us our Vitamin D.
Who should take Vitamin D supplements in summer?
It’s recommended that people at the greatest risk of Vitamin D deficiency should take a daily supplement all year round. If you fall into one of the following categories, a daily supplement of 10mcg is recommended throughout the year:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
- Children under 5
- People who aren’t exposed to much sunlight, such as those who are housebound, or who cover their skin for cultural reasons
- People from minority ethnic groups with dark skin, including those of African, African-Caribbean, and South Asian origin, whose skin requires more sun exposure to make enough Vitamin D.
“Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone diseases, such as rickets, osteoporosis, factures and falls,” says VEGA Nutritionals.
“Vitamin D absorbs and regulates calcium and phosphate in the body – both of which are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscle growth. They also support our immune system to fight illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, as well as depression and obesity. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D also protects against colds, so it’s vital for us to get our required daily amount.
“Large numbers of the UK population are at particular risk, including some ethnic groups with dark skin, who may not get enough Vitamin D from natural sunlight year-round. Also vulnerable are people with little exposure to sun, such as those who cover most of their skin whilst they are outdoors or people who don’t spend much time outside. This can include the elderly or people living in institutions such as care homes, as well as babies and small children.
“Office workers and most indoor occupations reduce your time to be outdoors. A recent survey found that 15% of workers spend no time in a nature-like environment outside during the working week. In addition, only 30% take a proper lunch-break. Finally, workers on nightshifts are often asleep at the key time of day when the sun can help your Vitamin D levels.”