Can you do without vitamin D?

The sunshine vitamin; vitamin D.

Fatty fish such as mackerel and herring, liver, milk, eggs all have vitamin D – these are natural foods and as you can see, there are not a lot of sources of vitamin D naturally.  Some processed cereals, margarines and some processed milks have added vitamin D but we need to avoid the bad fats in margarine and the refined foods such as cereals as they are high in sugars, salts and fats, and low in any kind of nutrition, except what has been added!

Another major source of vitamin D is of course the sun!  However, with all the fear of skin cancer; we never sit in the sun without our sunscreen and we tend to slather our kids in sunscreen thereby stopping the sun from actually touching the skin which can result in a lack of vitamin D.  It is essential that we get sunlight onto the skin for at least 30 minutes per day three days per week and where it is not possible and where our food is such that we are not getting our vitamin D that way, then we must supplement with vitamin D.  It is essential that we get enough vitamin D into the body.

What does vitamin D do in the body?

Vitamin D regulates calcium in the body as well as the metabolism of phosphate.  It targets three tissues in the body: bone where it is instrumental in maintenance of the integrity of the skeleton and helps support the plasma calcium levels through bone formation; Kidney where vitamin D regulates calcium absorption, and the intestines where it aids with the uptake of calcium and phosphate in the gutVitamin D is also used by the liver for metabolic activation and a portion of it is released in to the circulation. Vitamin D is circulated around the body through the lymph nodes, having been absorbed through the small intestine.

How does vitamin D benefit me?

It has been suggested that vitamin D metabolites could protect against prostate and colon cancers according to epidemiological and observational evidence.  There is also some evidence that supplementation with vitamin D could benefit sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis and could result in the inhibition of multiple sclerosis; IBS is another condition that could well benefit from vitamin D as well as decreasing the risk of fracture and bone disease in older women.

What could happen if we are deficient in vitamin D?

When children are deficient in vitamin D during the time they are growing, they can end up with a condition called Rickets – this was a condition that was more prevalent in the Victoria times and whilst it disappeared during the 1940’s due to fortification of cereals and margarine, it is on the rise again mainly in children of Asian, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern origin as having darker skin, their body needs more sunlight to get enough vitamin D. All children, whose diet is lacking in vitamin D or are not getting enough sun on their body, are at risk of developing rickets, it is also possible to supplement a child’s diet.  Also medications that affect vitamin D should be checked.

Rickets is not a child only disease, as adults who have prolonged deficiency in vitamin D also suffer from muscle and joint ache which are some of the symptoms of rickets.

I heard you can take too much…

There is no evidence of conditions resulting from the normal dosage vitamin D.  If you take excessive doses of vitamin D the result could be that calcium deposits are dropped in the soft tissue (i.e. kidneys, bronchi and arteries).

So, what is the normal dose?

All supplements are required to put the dose they recommend on the packaging.

A normal supplemental level of Vitamin D is 400iu* or 10mcg** which is considered ideal especially as we are not getting the needed amounts from the sun.  Taking 400iu of vitamin D will make sure that you can have all the vitamin D you need as well as covering up in the sun  if that is a concern.

400iu is the standard supplemental dosage for vitamin D

The safe upper level for Vitamin D is considered to be 1000iu* or 25mcg.

You will often find that vitamin A and vitamin D are together in the same capsules as both are fat-soluble.

Source material:

1. Vitamins and minerals An overview of benefits and safety by Dr. Derek Shrimpton and Professor David Richardson on behalf of the HFMA (Health Food Manufacturers Assoc.)2003.

* International units

** Micrograms

If you feel that your diet is lacking  click here for supplements to suit any diet.

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