In the UK, the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough during the autumn and winter months to stimulate vitamin D production in our bodies. As a result, many people risk missing out on some of the benefits of vitamin D. These are plentiful, since vitamin D:
• is a factor in maintaining good health.
• helps in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.
• helps in the absorption of and use of calcium and phosphorous.
• combined with calcium intake and a healthy diet and regular exercise, may reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
How to get it
You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight or from what you eat:
• sun exposure: Some of us can get the amount of vitamin D we need from a few minutes of sun each day. How much sun we need depends on our age, skin colour and the strength of the sun’s rays. Remember that you don’t need to actually tan your skin to get the benefits.
• foods: Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna provide substantial amounts of vitamin D. Breakfast cereals and margarine are often fortified with vitamin D. Check the nutrition labels on yogurt and orange juice to ensure they contain more than 20% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D per serving.
Is there enough “sunshine” in your life?
Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some sun.
However, the Department of Health recommends that the following people take daily vitamin D supplements:
• all children aged six months to five years old.
• all pregnant and breastfeeding women.
• all people aged 65 and over.
• people who are not exposed to much sun, such as people who cover up their skin for cultural reasons or those who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods.
• Those with darker skin, such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin.
Vitamin D supplements are a good idea if you feel that you’re not getting enough from the sun or the foods you eat. While there are plenty to choose from, speak to your pharmacist for trusted advice on what to buy and how much to take.
Too much of a good thing?
Taking very high doses of vitamin D for long periods of time could weaken your bones. If you have any questions about your vitamin D intake, see your GP or pharmacist for advice.
CA0001416 Date of preparation February 2012
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