Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is important in the prevention of osteoporosis (thinning of bones) or osteomalacia (softening of bones) in adults and rickets in children. Vitamin D also regulates production of antimicrobial peptides which form part of our immune response. Deficiency can result in an increased tendency to infections.
Vitamin D deficiency is known to be linked to many diseases, including:
- heart disease and strokes
- autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis)
- high blood pressure
- inflammatory bowel disease
- Alzheimers disease
- Parkinsons disease
Research also suggests that taking supplements in childhood can significantly reduce the risk of developing Type I diabetes.
How is Vitamin D good for your health?
There is some evidence that high levels of Vitamin D both help our bodies recover from cancer and also play a major part in cancer prevention. Optimising your Vitamin D levels could help to prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers. There are now oncologists in the UK using Vitamin D as part of cancer treatment. Taking this supplement is also now encouraged as a way of boosting your immunity against coronavirus.
Why are we not getting enough Vitamin D?
Many adults and possibly a third of all children may be deficient. This deficiency is related to our lack of sunlight exposure and the use of sun blocking creams. Some people may need more Vitamin D than others, in particular:
- the elderly
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- children under 5
- those with darker skin
- the housebound
In February 2012, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales recommended vitamin D supplements for this group in particular.
How can we improve our Vitamin D levels?
Since studies have shown that possibly 70-80% of the UK population may have low levels of Vitamin D, we are all recommended to consider taking a daily supplement. The best food sources of Vitamin D3 are oily fish (such as mackerel, sardines, herrings, salmon and trout). However, even a daily helping of one of these could only provide about 300 IU of Vitamin D. There continues to be uncertainty regarding the most effective dose but it is undoubtedly the case that previously recommended doses of 400 IU a day is not sufficient to provide effective blood levels.
Southern Independent Medical Practice recommends you should consider taking 1000 IU daily throughout the year. Vitamin D supplements are best taken as Vitamin D3. These can be purchased over-the-counter at many outlets and patients are welcome to order supplies directly through the practice.