I am sure most of you have heard in recent months that we should start taking vitamin D supplements. But why is that important and how does it look in practice?
Well, firstly let’s see why vitamin D is important.
Vitamin D is considered an essential vitamin, it keeps our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. There are different forms of vitamin D but vitamin D3 known as cholecalciferol tends to be better absorbed. Deficiency symptoms include bone pain, muscle weakness, and skeletal deformities such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
What are the food sources?
Vitamin D can be found in the following food sources:
- Cod liver oil at about 2.54 -2.78mcg/mL
- Eggs and some staple foods (e.g. margarine, milk, and cereals) that are fortified with this vitamin to increase absorption. However, fortified foods generally do not provide enough vitamin D.
- In recent years, UV-irradiated mushrooms become available on the market, and they appear to be rich in vitamin D2. One serving of these mushrooms can provide enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D in the UK
The main source of vitamin D in the UK is from sunlight from April to September. Our body produces vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin while outdoors.
There are several factors that can affect the production of vitamin D and they include things such as latitudes, weather patterns (clouds and darkness), regions with higher ozone breakdown, darker skin, sunscreens, and also our well-known lockdowns.
Vitamin D and Health Research
Lowe levels of vitamin D are associated with certain conditions, including Parkinson’s disease Alzheimer’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS,) depression. Low levels of this vitamin have shown to also increase our risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, and cause problems with sleep.
What are the recommendations in the UK?
Many of us in the UK still do not meet the requirements for adequate vitamin D intake, and vitamin D deficiency is a common problem affecting people around the world of all ages.
In the UK, it is recommended that adults and children over 5 years old try to get their vitamin D from a balanced diet in the autumn and winter, as the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D. However, getting enough vitamin D from food alone is difficult and everyone (including pregnant and lactating women) should consider taking supplements containing 10 µg (micrograms) of vitamin D per day. Vitamin D supplements can be purchased from most pharmacies and supermarkets.
It is important to remember that Vitamin D is best absorbed with fats. So remember to take your vitamin D supplement with a meal containing fats. Healthy fats can be found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, vegetable oils, and oily fish.
*Conversion 10 µg = 400 IU or IU (international units)
Vitamin D recommendations in Poland
For instance, in countries like Poland, it is also recommended to take vitamin D supplements from October to March. The Dietary Supplements Team recommends:
– 2,000 IU (50 µg) for dietary supplements intended for the healthy population of adults up to 75 years of age;
– 4000 IU (100 µg) for dietary supplements intended only for healthy people over 75 years of age. Vitamin D among the elderly is a serious problem, if only because of the weaker skin synthesis of the vitamin from sunlight.
As you can see, recommendations for vitamin D supplementation differ in some countries. Currently, there is no international consensus on the optimal level of vitamin D supplementation. Recommendations vary in many countries and range from 400 to 2000 IU per day. Several factors can contribute to this, such as the high consumption of oily fish or cultural practices and lifestyles that minimize sun exposure.
Research shows that migrant populations around the world, including refugees and asylum seekers, have lower levels of vitamin D compared to local populations. Age, ethnicity, country of origin, higher latitudes, food barriers, cultural practices, and length of time after immigration have been reported in several studies to be associated with the risk of vitamin D deficiency among immigrants.
Therefore, if you have moved to another country, check the vitamin D recommendations in that country. Also, consult your doctor to check your vitamin D levels.
I hope it is more clear now why it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements in the Autumn and Winter months. We know that vitamin D deficiency is a common problem worldwide. Remember the recommended dosage in the UK is 10 µg (micrograms) of vitamin D per day. But be aware that several factors can affect the production of vitamin D such as weather, skin colour, lifestyle, and cultural practices. So the recommendations may vary between different countries but also age groups, lifestyles, etc. The migrant population seems to be at higher risk of having lower levels of vitamin D in comparison to the local population. Therefore, consider taking vitamin D supplements if you have moved to or are planning to move to another country. If you are not sure what dose to take, discuss it with a healthcare professional.
If you wish to speak to a nutritionist about your diet and health, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.