Vital vitamin D - and where to find it

Vitamin D is in the news today alongside a government proposal that everyone should be taking a supplement to counteract the lack of sunshine we receive on our fair isle. 

In July, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN - a group of independent nutrition experts who advise the government) published draft recommendations for vitamin D intake. The report included an extensive review of the available evidence on vitamin D and it's effect on health and concluded that the British levels of sunshine and natural food sources, do not provide the population with adequate vitamin D. 

Current guidance recommends a few vulnerable groups take a vitamin D supplement. They are: pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children up to the age of 5 years old, adults over 65, those with darker skin and those who do not expose their skin to sunlight for religious or cultural reasons. 

SACN is now considering a dietary intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day for everyone aged above 1 year (and 8.5-10 micrograms/day for those under 1 year).

This recommendation was made after they studied the links between vitamin D levels and a range of health problems, including musculoskeletal health (particularly bone health), heart disease, type 1 diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

So where can I get my vitamin D?

1. Sunshine! -  Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight so during these sunnier, summer months, get outside as much as possible and expose your face and forearms to the sun for at least 10 minutes before applying sunscreen. However, if you find yourself inside, covered up and specifically during the winter months when UVB rays are limited, dietary sources and supplementation become important.

2. Food - Unfortunately, the amount of vitamin D found in food is pretty small. Where possible include the following foods as part of a balanced diet:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Fortified Breakfast Cereals
  • Beef

3. Supplements - The SACN report advises people to supplement 10 micrograms per day throughout the year especially if you spend most of your time indoors or cover up for religous/cultural reasons.