Why is Vitamin D So Important?

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Vitamin D is sometimes nicknamed ‘the sunshine vitamin’, because our skin produces it naturally as a direct response to exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D can be made by the skin, but only in temperate climates. The UK winters don’t stimulate the process particularly well, as although the weather is sunny there is not enough ultraviolet light. So even if you’re outside in winter, your body cannot produce the vitamin D it needs.

Fat-soluble vitamin

Vitamin D dissolves in fat and is stored throughout the body, before being absorbed and finding its way into the blood stream. Vitamin D has several important functions, but one of the most important is regulating the body’s absorption of calcium. You can be taking in enough calcium through your diet, but all this will be wasted if you aren’t getting the right amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is a problem in the UK therefore reduced calcium absorption is potentially also a problem. The most common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are tiredness, feeling aches and pains, feeling lethargic or unwell, bone pain, muscle weakness and excessive sweating.

Vitamin D deficiency

It is important to address the issues of generating Vitamin D in the UK as low levels of vitamin D are linked to a number of bone conditions. These include osteomalacia, where bones become soft or weak due to loss of calcium and other minerals, and of course osteoporosis, where bone density decreases and bones become more porous and break due to weakness developing over time. In order to ensure we are getting enough some food and drink is fortified with vitamin D, especially in countries in the northern hemisphere. Cereals, spreads, and some dairy products such as milk may have vitamin D added to them. There are also foods in which vitamin D naturally occurs, such as egg yolks and oily fish.

How to get more vitamin D

There are many multi-vitamin supplements on the market that can help increase vitamin D levels, and calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D. Those people diagnosed with low vitamin D also require more calcium in their diet.

Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as yoghurt, milk, cheese and tofu. It is also important to stress that while sunlight exposure plays a key role in vitamin D production, you shouldn’t be reaching for your beach towel and deck chair with abandon. Ten minutes exposure is usually enough, as any more can cause reddening and burning. Too much sun exposure is linked to skin cancer, so as with most things in life, getting the balance right is important. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is an essential part of prevention of osteoporosis and other related conditions.

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