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More than 50% of population in UK deficient in Vitamin D. Are You?

Vitamin D is fast becoming known as a ‘super-nutrient’. No longer just an important nutrient for healthy teeth and bones, research is now finding that long term deficiency of Vitamin D can be linked to a wide range of health problems.

Vitamin D has a remarkable role to play in your health, influencing nearly 3,000 of your 25,000 genes, and playing a critical role in your immune response. Long term deficiency may be linked with diseases ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment, depression and problems with auto-immunity such as multiple sclerosis and type1 diabetes.

Many people don’t realise that very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified milk, egg yolks and oily fish are the best sources, but we certainly cannot rely on food to provide us with optimal amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis unless we all eat a few servings of oily fish every day!

Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight and really sunshine is (or supposed to be) our main source. It is produced as a pro-hormone in your skin after sunlight exposure, and is then converted to the potent hormone form D3.

So what happens if you combine living in a country that gets very few sunshine hours with the modern lifestyle………?? Perhaps most worrying is the resurgence of rickets, a bone disease caused by serious vitamin D deficiency which is now being diagnosed in hundreds of young children every year. But vitamin D deficiency is also increasingly being identified in the elderly.

Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of this vitamin through the sun alone and contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. They include; pollution, use of sunscreen, spending more time indoors, working longer hours in offices, living in big cities where buildings block sunlight and travelling in cars. In addition to this in more recent years, skin cancer scares have further minimised sun exposure for all ages, especially for children. The recommended liberal use of high factor sunscreen has had additional negative impacts on the skin’s natural vitamin D production process. Before the sun scare, 90% of human vitamin D stores came from skin production not dietary sources.

When you look at how our lifestyles have evolved to cut out the sun’s contact with our skin, it is easy to see why we now have such epidemic proportions of vitamin D deficiency and why taking vitamin D3 supplements may just be a very good idea. Supplements should contain vitamin D in the form of vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), since this is the form naturally produced by the skin upon exposure to sunlight and data has shown this is the most efficient form at increasing serum vitamin D levels

There has been some controversy over the amount of vitamin D needed for healthy functioning. Recent research indicates that we need more vitamin D than was once thought. Some sources suggest that considerably higher doses than the Daily Recommended Allowance (RDA) are needed and it has been suggested that the RDA is only just what is needed to prevent rickets (!) let alone other things. Some sources recommend daily amounts of vitamin D as high as 2000 IU per day, higher for a while if you are already deficient.

It is worth mentioning that people over the age of 50 generally need a higher amount of vitamin D than younger people do as do people with darker skin.

Although the exact amount may be in question, the importance of vitamin D is not!

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