Craving a bit of sun? You’re not alone; we’re practically drooling over the idea of summer.
We all know a bit of sunshine is super important for our physical and mental wellbeing. Take, for example, vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
Vitamin D is known to have several crucial functions, but many of us may not be meeting our requirements, especially during the dark winter months leading to severe Vitamin D deficiencies.
Grab your (sun)glasses and let expert Lizzy Cole explain!
D-fined: What Is Vitamin D And Where Does It Come From?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and made within our bodies when UVB rays from the sun penetrate our skin.
Most of us rely on this to meet our requirement; typically, over 90% of our vitamin D comes from this mechanism (Holick 2004).
However, factors such as skin pigmentation, sunscreen use, as well as the time of day and seasonality, can affect how much Vitamin D is made. But how is Vitamin D made exactly; more on this later.
We can also obtain vitamin D from a limited number of foods.
Like other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D is found in fats and oils, such as milk, oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines) and cod liver oil (Holick, 2004).
Whilst eggs are also a potentially good source, the amount of vitamin D measured in them has been variable (Holick, 2004).
Fortification of food items is rare, although some products such as orange juice, bread and cereal, do sometimes have vitamin D added to them.
D-lightful: What Are The Benefits Of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is vital for bone health. This is because it increases calcium absorption and maintains blood calcium concentrations within an acceptable range.
Vitamin D deficiencies result in calcium being withdrawn from bones instead to maintain normal concentrations of calcium in the blood.
This puts individuals at risk of developing osteoporosis or fractures later in life (Holick, 2004).
D-ficiencies And Dangers: Do I Need To Think About My Intake?
Over the last 50 years, it appears that many women have shunned oily fish and dairy products (Whitton et al.,2011).
This has meant that the amount of vitamin D obtained from the average female’s diet in the UK is below recommended levels (Irving et al., 2003).
Whilst worrying, is not necessarily a disaster because, as previously mentioned, 90% of our intake comes from the action of sunlight on our skin (Holick 2004).
However, vitamin D deficiencies are widespread, especially in those living at higher latitudes, where seasonality puts constraints on vitamin D production, and in those of African American origin, whose skin is less efficient at making vitamin D.
However, other groups are at risk, such as those who work indoors or who always wear sunscreen causing vitamin d deficiencies.
For example, Sullivan et al. (2003) showed that 17% of females were vitamin D deficient at the end of the summer, possibly because this group diligently protected themselves from the sun.
Indeed, sun protection is important in preventing skin cancer, so a balance is needed to achieve sufficient but safe sun exposure.
If you’re wondering – do you get vitamin d from tanning beds, no I do not recommend it. Tanning beds can be dangerous and cause sunburn and skin cancer as they use strong UV-A radiation.
It is also vitally important to determine whether an individual has sufficient but safe levels of vitamin D, as it is potentially the most toxic of all vitamins.
Intoxication can never occur as a result of sun exposure; excess vitamin D is degraded into inactive products (Holick 2007).
However, if too much vitamin D is consumed in our diet, it results in elevated blood calcium and calcification of soft tissues, including the kidneys, lungs, heart, and arteries (BPA 1956).
Consequently, be sure to consult a nutritionist or your GP before taking supplements or altering your diet.
Lizzy Cole holds an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Nutrition from King’s College London.
She’s 39; an experienced registered nutritionist, working with clients across the UK and US to gain more confidence and achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.
Her signature balanced approach to nutrition has helped hundreds of individuals eat better without feeling deprived, ditch the fads and conflicting advice and reach and maintain their goals, and now she’s here to help you do the same.
She is currently authoring her first book to inspire women to stop abusing their bodies, using her own personal experience of a 10-year eating disorder and diverse professional experience with clients.
If self-care is important to you, please contribute to this book by visiting gf.me/u/zgaip5.
In doing so, you’ll be helping change your life as well as the women closest to you.
Nutrivy is a health supplement company dedicated to improving your health and lifestyle through the use of highly absorbed health supplements made from vegan sustainable ingredients.
FREE Vitamin Cheat Sheet
Learn How Much Of Each Vitamin You Need Per Day With Our FREE Cheat Sheet
British Paediatric Association (BPA) (1956) Hypercalcemia in infants and vitamin D. British Medical Journal, 2, 149–151
Holick, M.F. (2004) Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80(6), 1678S-1688S
Holick, M.F. (2007) Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(3), 266–281
Irving, K., Gregory, J., Bates, C.J., Prentice, A., Perks, J., Swan, G. and Farron, M. (2003) The national diet & nutrition survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years. Vitamin and mineral intake and urinary analytes. Norwich, UK: HMSO
Sullivan, S.S., Rosen, C.J., Chen, T.C. and Holick, M.F. (2003) Seasonal changes in serum 25(OH)D in adolescent girls in Maine. In: Proceedings of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Annual Meeting. Washington, DC: American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
Whitton, C., Nicholson, S.K., Roberts, C., Prynne, C.J., Pot, G.K., Olson, A., Fitt, E., Cole, D., Teucher, B., Bates, B.and Henderson, H. (2011) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: UK food consumption and nutrient intakes from the first year of the rolling programme and comparisons with previous surveys. British journal of nutrition, 106(12), 1899–1914
Image Credit — https://www.tcmworld.org/be-the-sunshine/