Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is made in our body through the action of sunlight on our skin.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D has many roles in our body. You probably know that it helps to build strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps our body to absorb the minerals calcium and phosphorus, and supports normal bone growth ...Read more and development in children. But vitamin D is also needed for normal function of our immune system, and for our muscles to work properly. It even participates in cell division throughout the body, allowing for normal growth and repair to take place.
Am I getting enough vitamin D?
As we’ve already seen, our main source of vitamin D is the action of sunlight on our bare skin. We can get small quantities of vitamin D in foods, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, as well as in eggs. But these amounts are very tiny compared to what our body needs, and we can’t rely on foods to give us enough.
So do you get enough vitamin D through sunlight? In the summer, if you go out in the sun with bare arms and legs at least a few times a week, you will build up some stores of vitamin D. But in winter, you will make little or no vitamin D of your own: even if you go out on a sunny day, the angle of the sun is so low and the intensity so weak (in the UK) that your body’s vitamin D production is not stimulated. This means that many people in the UK may become deficient in vitamin D over winter, even if they had built up a good store over summer.
In summary, it can be helpful for both adults and children to take a vitamin D supplement over winter – or year-round for those who don’t have much sun exposure. Ideally, ask your doctor for a blood test for vitamin D levels to determine whether you need a supplement.
How do I choose a vitamin D supplement?
Vitamin D can be found in capsules, tablets, liquids and even as a spray. Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it may be better absorbed in an oil base inside a softgel capsule, or as a liquid, compared to a dry tablet form. Spray forms, which you spray directly into the mouth or under the tongue – or emulsified liquids, where the oil has been broken into tiny droplets for easy absorption – may be best of all.
Supplements of vitamin D2 and D3 are available, but vitamin D3 is thought to be better absorbed and utilised in the body than vitamin D2, and is usually a better choice. Although vitamin D3 supplements were traditionally made from lanolin from sheep’s wool, D3 supplements for vegans are now available too.
There are a wide variety of dosages available for vitamin D. For adults, we may recommend a maintenance dose of around 1000iu (25ųg) vitamin D per day, but higher doses can be used if you know or suspect you may be deficient. For kids, specific children’s vitamin D supplements suitable for their age group are available.
If you would like help choosing a vitamin D supplement, or if you are taking any prescribed medication, give our nutritionists a call on 0345 2222 828 (option 3).