02nd November 2021

Did you know today is World Vitamin D Day 2021? In order to raise awareness of this important nutrient, we wanted to share some interesting facts you may or may not know about vitamin D. 

What is vitamin D? 
Vitamin D (also referred to as “calciferol”) is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.1

Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations. This enables normal bone mineralization and prevents involuntary muscle contractions such as cramps and spasms. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodelling. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen, and can lead to rickets in children. Vitamin D also has other roles in the body, including reducing inflammation as well as modulation of such processes as cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.1

Vitamin D deficiency is very common!
In the UK around one in five adults and one in six children don’t have enough vitamin D,  and an estimated 1 billion people don’t get enough of “the sunshine vitamin” worldwide. Adults and children over the age of one need 10 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin D per day.2 Public Health England (PHE) has advised that nearly everyone in the UK should take a 10 mcg supplement of vitamin D in the autumn and winter months, as there is not enough sunlight at this time of year for sufficient production of vitamin D in the skin. This is the same for everyone, including people at risk of vitamin D deficiency and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.3

Top 6 ways to increase your vitamin D intake:4
1. Spend time exposing your skin to sunlight. Vitamin D is often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best sources of this nutrient. 

2. Consume oily fish and seafood. 

3. Eat more mushrooms.

4. Include egg yolks in your diet.

5. Eat fortified foods.

6. Take a supplement.

Can vitamin D prevent cancer?5
Hundreds of studies now link vitamin D deficiency with significantly higher rates of many forms of cancer‚ as well as heart disease‚ osteoporosis‚ multiple sclerosis and many other conditions and diseases.

Until about 100 years ago, people spent a large amount of their time outdoors. Now most of us work indoors and increasingly spend our leisure time inside, drawn to the internet, TV, video games and other passive forms of recreation. When we are outdoors, many of us follow health warnings to protect ourselves from UV exposure with sunscreen, clothing and shade. As a result, vitamin D levels have fallen worldwide. It is therefore very important to understand the benefits of vitamin D, and take steps to ensure you are getting the recommended daily amount.

References:
1. Ods.od.nih.gov. 2021. Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin D. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 26 October 2021).
2. Heartuk.org.uk. 2021. Vitamin D. Available at: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/low-cholesterol-foods/vitamin-d (Accessed 26 October 2021).
3. Hazell, D., 2021. Top tips: vitamin D deficiency.  Guidelines in Practice. Available at: https://www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk/nutrition/top-tips-vitamin-d-deficiency/454118.article (Accessed 26 October 2021).
4. Healthline. 2021. How to Get Vitamin D: 7 Effective Ways. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-vitamin-d (Accessed 26 October 2021).
5. Vitamindsociety.org. 2021. The VitaminD Society. Available at: http://www.vitamindsociety.org/benefits.php (Accessed 26 October 2021).