According to a new government study, we should all be taking Vitamin D supplements in the autumn and winter. With most of our Vitamin D intake coming from exposure to sunlight and supplemented by diet, there are now concerns that we will not get enough during the darker winter months and this lack of Vitamin D cannot be topped up though diet alone. With 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 children having potentially low levels, research shows we should all be taking 10 microgram supplements on a daily basis. Previous advice only recommended daily supplements for at-risk groups including pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and over-65s. So what exactly are the benefits of Vitamin D, and what are the current official recommendations for other vitamin and mineral supplements?
Why We Need Vitamin D and How We Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which means it is essential for the development of healthy bones, muscles and teeth. When children don’t get enough Vitamin D they can develop rickets which results in bones becoming soft and weak as they develop. If adults become deficient, this can lead to osteomalacia which leads to severe muscle and bone ache.
Our main source of Vitamin D is sunlight, but now scientists are worried some of us may not be getting enough Vitamin D through sun exposure, especially during the autumn and winter months. There is also a concern that the use of sunscreen can affect our access to Vitamin D from the sunlight. Although sunscreen is always recommended when venturing out in strong sunlight, Dr Louis Levy, Head of Nutrition Science at Public Health England, now says that those who apply sunscreen according to manufacturer’s recommendations may not be making enough Vitamin D in their system. He states, “When you out, you do need to have short bursts without sunscreen and make sure that you don’t get sunburnt.”
As well as through sun exposure, our levels of Vitamin D are also topped up by certain types of food. These include fortified cereals, eggs and fish and icnluding these in your diet is a great way to boosy your Vitamin D levels. Cooking things like omelettes is a great way to start the day.
Vitamin D for Children and Supplement Recommendations
Prior to today’s announcement, it was already recommended that children under the age of 5 should take daily Vitamin D supplements all year round, as well as babies under 1 year who don’t get additional Vitamin D in formula milk.
The official recommendation on the NHS advice site is that most adults should already be getting sufficient vitamins and minerals in their diet alone, and apart from a number of cases, additional vitamin and mineral supplements are not required. In fact, it recently reiterated this with its recommendations that pregnant women don’t need any of the pregnancy supplements marketed towards them apart from the necessary Folic Acid and recommended Vitamin D. Although taking vitamins and minerals isn’t harmful, the NHS advises against taking them for long periods without a break.
However, there are a few exceptions to this blanket advice –
- It is recommended that all children under the age of 5 take vitamin drops that contain Vitamins A, C and D. Health visitors and doctors can offer advice on which drops to take, and families on low incomes are entitled to free drops on the NHS Healthy Start scheme. Vitamin A is important in strengthening immune systems and maintaining healthy skin, and Vitamin C is important for general, building up the immune system and helping bodies absorb iron.
- It might be recommended you take supplements in specific circumstances, for example if you suffer from an iron deficiency. If this is the case, you doctor should advise you on what to take.
If you think you need extra Vitamin D in your diet, or another supplement, there are a number of avenues you can explore. For specific health concerns, it’s always important to consult your GP first – it’s possible they can offer you a prescription if required. But if you want to get a good price on vitamins and mineral supplements, shopping online can uncover many good deals. My Vitamins voucher codes offer a 25% discount for new customers. Of you might prefer to shop with a high street name, it’s a good idea to browse the latest from Boots for any current offers that could save you money.
By Anna Scott, 23rd July 2016 - My Favourite Voucher Codes