As Winter approaches, and sunshine becomes an even rarer commodity for weather weary Brits, now is a good time to remind ourselves of the need for Vitamin D at this time of year.
Gloomy skies and cold, rainy weather are things most of us would happily live without, yet sunshine is something that our body needs to help it function.
Vitamin D is synthesized by the body when your skin is exposed to sunlight and the main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. It is only present in a small number of foods such as oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as red meat and egg yolk.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the food you eat, which is important for normal bone growth, development and maintenance.
In the UK, sunlight does not contain enough UVB radiation in October to early March for our skin to be able to make vitamin D.
In 2016 Public Health England recommended an intake for Vitamin D of 10 µg per day (400 IU/day), throughout the year, for everyone in the general UK population aged 1 year and above.₁,₅
The new recommendation, was based on advice from the Science Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), and coincides with national surveys across the UK, which revealed one in five people in the UK have insufficient vitamin D levels.₂
When it comes to achieving the required amount of the Sunshine Vitamin, it is not just the time of year that presents a challenge. New research has identified that certain occupations are particularly vulnerable.
Research has suggested that occupation may contribute to low vitamin D and found levels in most of the occupational groups investigated were below those recommended for good health.
The research, aimed to evaluate vitamin D levels in different occupations and identify groups who were more vulnerable. The study, spanned both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and involved more than 53,345 participants.₃
The review discovered that vitamin D insufficiency was highest amongst shift workers (80% of individuals), followed by indoor workers (78%). reflecting key lifestyle differences (e.g. sunlight exposure) between the groups.₃
“Hopefully understanding the risk for low vitamin D in different professions will help to further raise awareness and help the UK workforce understand the importance of getting enough Vitamin D, all year round, not just in the winter months.
In addition we are choosing to spend a large amount of our leisure time indoors. The NHS reports that adults spend 2.8 hours indoors watching television per weekday and this rises to about three hours on weekends.₄
“Being glued to our screens in an office or at home makes it clear our lifestyle choices aren’t helping matters.”
Public Health England now recommend people consider taking dietary supplements to help maintain satisfactory vitamin D blood levels throughout the year, in order to help protect musculoskeletal health.₅
“There are a lot of misconceptions about supplements and a lot of misinformation contributing to confusion about what the benefits of supplements like Vitamin D actually are. We want to make sure consumers can make an informed choice and that they are armed with the right information. I would recommend anyone who is considering taking a supplement to seek advice from a reputable source first”. Adds Tom.