Vitamin D has been receiving a lot of attention in the news recently – and for good reason. Here’s why the so-called sunshine vitamin is so important to your health
What is vitamin D3 and how is it made?
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s better known as the sunshine vitamin because the body’s main source of it comes from the sun. If you want to get technical, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun reach vitamin D precursors on the skin to manufacture vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). It then gets further metabolised in the body to calcitriol, which is the biologically active form of vitamin D that your body uses for the many processes that it’s involved in.
What foods contain vitamin D?
Although the main source of vitamin D is from the sun, it can also be obtained in small amounts from certain food sources, including oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel), red meat, liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, dark leafy vegetables, fortified foods like fat spreads and cereals. That said, the amount of vitamin D obtained from food sources is so small that most of the population consumes less than 3µg of vitamin D per day, according to the British Journal of Family Medicine.
The importance of vitamin D
Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system; it also contributes to the normal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which aids in normal bone mineralisation, as well as helping to maintain normal teeth and muscle function.
Why are people in the UK often deficient in vitamin D3?
In the UK, where the sunshine is only available for half of the year (normally from late March/early April to the end of September), it can be difficult to get the required amount of vitamin D3. For that reason, the NHS recommends that adults and children over the age of one take a supplement containing 10 micrograms or 400IU of vitamin D over the autumn and winter months, while also increasing their intake of foods that are rich in vitamin D.
The NHS also recommends that a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms/400IU of vitamin D should be taken throughout the year for a certain group of people. These include those who are not often outdoors, such as the elderly; people that are housebound or those in a care home; people who wear clothes that cover up most of the skin when outdoors; and those who have a darker skin tone, as darker skin contains more melanin, which blocks the sun’s UV rays. Those people on plant-based diets should also consider supplementation.
Lifeplan offers a range of vegetarian and vegan-friendly vitamin D3 that is easily utilised by the body and available in various strengths.
Vegan Vitamin D3 1000iu, £6.99
Vegan Vitamin D3 2000iu, £9.99
Vitamin D3 400iu, £4.95
To find out more about Lifeplan or shop the full range of supplements, visit lifeplan.co.uk