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How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Each Day?

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Referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential to the human body – offering a host of benefits to the way in which our bodies work. But how much vitamin D is enough and where does it come from? Here are some facts about vitamin D, along with the ways in which you can get a sufficient amount of it.

What Is Vitamin D and Why Do I Need It?

A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D functions in a similar way as a steroid hormone does within our bodies. Aptly named the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is created by the body when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight, though can also be sourced in certain foods and dietary supplements. The main function of vitamin D is to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are the nutrients required to maintain the health of our bones, teeth and muscles.

Primarily sourced from the sun, vitamin D is one of the most common vitamins people are deficient in – especially for those with limited exposure to sunlight. A lack of vitamin D can result in a number of conditions, including bone deformities (such as rickets in children) and osteomalacia – a condition that causes pain in the bones of adults. Further complications caused by a vitamin D deficiency include problems with teeth, muscles and the immune system.

While a lack of vitamin D can occur for anyone, there are some groups of people more at risk of developing deficiencies. These can include people with darker skin, those who wear religious dress with less exposure to sunlight, older adults who are unable to make the vitamin as efficiently due to less-able organs, and people with medical conditions and disorders. For example, this may include people who suffer from celiac disease, as they are unable to handle and process fat properly – vitamin D requires a certain amount of fat in order to be effectively absorbed.

How Much Vitamin D Is Needed Each Day?

Both babies (unless having more than 500ml of infant formula a day) and children aged 1-4 are especially at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, with many adults also at risk of a deficiency.

While many of us in the UK should make enough vitamin D needed from sunlight in the months of late March to the end of September, the remaining darker months may result in our bodies not creating enough of the vitamin as is necessary. This is why it is government advice that everyone should take vitamin D every day in the form of a supplement during the autumn and winter months, in order to be able to get enough of the vitamin when the sunlight is less present.

With the amount needed being consistent from the age of 1 year old through adulthood, the daily recommended intake is 10 micrograms. Though this amount remains the same for those at risk of vitamin D deficiencies and pregnant or breastfeeding women, babies under the age of 1 need only 8.5 micrograms.

While it’s vital that our bodies get enough vitamin D in order to function properly and healthily, we need to ensure we stick to the recommended amounts and not exceed these. Too much vitamin D in the body, known as vitamin D toxicity, can be harmful and results in the body raising the levels of calcium within the blood too high. Calcium levels that are too high can cause a host of problems, including confusion and disorientation.

How Can I Get Vitamin D?

Sunshine in those March to September months should provide us with all the vitamin D we need to support the ways in which our bodies work, helping to maintain great bone, teeth and muscle health. Besides taking supplements in the darker months of the year, vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods, too. Sources of vitamin D include:

  • Red meat
  • Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods such as certain fat spreads and breakfast cereals.

It’s a common misconception that all sources of calcium are good sources of vitamin D. While countries outside of the UK may fortify their cow’s milk, in the UK we do not, which means cow’s milk isn’t a good source of vitamin D here.

For those with dietary restrictions and allergies, or those avoiding certain foods for religious reasons, getting the right amount of vitamin D through food can be difficult. People following vegan diets, for example, will find that many of the sources of foods that contain vitamin D also include animal-derived products, too. For those with such diets or allergies, vitamin D supplements can ensure they receive an effective amount of the vitamin to promote good health, without having to change the way they eat.

Consider ways that you can get an adequate amount of vitamin D in your diet and if you’re concerned that you might be deficient, speak to your GP for an assessment.