What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for the normal development of bones and teeth – without it we can’t absorb calcium properly. It also plays an important role in cell development and helps to support a healthy immune system.
Where does vitamin D come from?
It’s naturally present in foods like oily fish (mackerel, salmon etc) cod liver oil, certain cheeses and egg yolks. Unless you plan on drinking cod liver oil by the bucket load, it’s almost impossible to get enough from food alone. In fact, most of us get just 10% of our R.D.A from our diet.
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin, so it’s probably no surprise that the best source of this essential nutrient is the sun. However, in the Northern Hemisphere, between October and March the suns rays are too weak for us to absorb enough from sunlight.
How could this affect my family?
Vitamin D deficiency is on the up with an estimated 1 in 6 UK children not getting enough to remain healthy. Children under 5 are most at risk, along with people with very dark skins, pregnant women and the over 65s. In total, around 10 million people in the UK are thought to be deficient and could be at risk of health problems.
What are the health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency?
If you thought rickets was a thing of the past, think again. Doctors have started to see an increase in the number of children with the disease, which causes bone deformities as a result of vitamin D deficiency. The NHS is so alarmed by the increased number of rickets cases that it’s recommending free supplements to all children under 4.
In adults vitamin D deficiency causes Osteomalacia. Symptoms include skeletal pain and muscular weakness. In addition, there is a growing body of research which links deficiency to a range of illnesses from multiple sclerosis to depression and dementia.
What’s the best way to ensure my family gets enough vitamin D?
In summer, try to ensure you and your family spend 10-15 minutes outside each day without sun protection (which stops the skin from absorbing vitamin D.) Make sure this exposure is not in the middle of the day – it’s important to balance the risk of of deficiency with the risk of skin cancer.
Make sure you eat at least one to two portions of oily fish each week, especially in winter when we don’t get any Vitamin D from the sunshine.
Eat foods that have been enriched with vitamin D, like cereals and dairy products. Claudi & Fin Greek style frozen yoghurt lollies contain 30% of an adult’s R.I. (Daily reference Intake). You could also consider taking a supplement.
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