We all know that we need to get a range of nutrients each day in order to stay as fit and healthy as possible, but when it comes to vitamins and supplements, how much is too much? In this article, we explain why vitamin D is so important for your health and whether you should be taking vitamin D every day.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is vital for your health, helping the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from your diet and maintaining strong teeth, bones and muscles. As we get older, having a strong skeletal system is critical to prevent injuries from falling, so vitamin D plays a vital role. This nutrient is also key for other roles in the body, such as maintaining a healthy immune system and a strong heart. A lack of vitamin D in the body can cause bone issues, such as rickets, and muscle weakness.
How does the body make Vitamin D?
Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D – while we can get a small amount from the food we consume we actually get most of this nutrient from sunlight. The sun reacts with chemicals under the skin which transforms into vitamin D for the body to utilise. But especially in the UK, most of us don’t get the right type of sunlight for this reaction to occur, leading to a deficiency. This is where taking a vitamin D supplement can come in handy. While we don’t need to get vitamin D every day, you do need it regularly in order to prevent a deficiency.
How much do I need?
Adults and children over the age of one require 10mcg of vitamin D each day, and this quantity is the same for everyone, even those who are at risk of deficiency, and women breastfeeding or pregnant. For children under one year, the required amount is 8.5-10mcg of vitamin D per day.
How to get enough vitamin D
In order for your body to make vitamin D, you need to get sunlight on your skin, and this is easiest from April until September when you can get enough of this nutrient from spending time outside. While you can get enough vitamin D from sunlight during the spring and summer months, in the autumn and winter, the UK doesn’t get enough sun for the levels required, so a supplement is recommended.
You don’t need to spend excessive amounts of time outdoors for this process to occur – just 20 to 30 minutes is enough, even if you’re sitting in the shade, although the exact time varies from person to person. However, sitting behind a window doesn’t count as the glass filters out the UVB rays which are the type of light needed to make vitamin D. Sun lotions prevent the skin from making vitamin D, so always protect your skin if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time.
You can also get a small amount of this nutrient from certain foods, including oily fish like salmon and mackerel, red meat, liver and fish liver oil, egg yolks, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals and fat spreads. It’s harder to get vitamin D from food if you’re vegan or vegetarian as it’s typically found in animal products, but many dairy or meat alternatives are fortified with this nutrient.
Those at risk of a deficiency include those who don’t go outdoors, such as:
- People in hospital or people who are disabled and unable to get about
- Those who wear dark clothing that covers most of their body
- People with dark skin
- If you’re overweight
- If you eat fewer fortified foods or you don’t eat foods that contain vitamin D
- If you have a condition that changes how vitamin D is used in the body, such as Crohn’s disease
While you can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun, you can take too much from supplements, so never overdose on the recommended amount and be careful not to consume over 25mcg per day. If you’re unsure, it’s always worth speaking to your doctor or pharmacist to check that you’re taking the right amount of this nutrient to prevent any problems.