The common vitamin deficiency to look out for this winter

Dr Ellie on why people should be taking Vitamin D supplements

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What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is more than just the sunlight chemical. More accurately, Mr Kanani described it as “a fat soluble vitamin which promotes calcium absorption”.

He added: “Vitamin D also plays a role in supporting the immune system, improving heart health, reducing inflammation, and regulating blood sugar levels.

“Some studies have also shown vitamin D to regulate mood and reduce depression. During the winter, lack of sun can mean that it is almost impossible to get the required amounts of vitamin D.”

According to Mr Kanani: “Around 20 percent of adults and children in the UK have a deficiency of vitamin D.”

However, the problem is much larger in more diverse communities.

Mr Kanani explained: “A recent study has published figures showing that approximately 50-57 percent of Asians living in the UK have a vitamin D deficiency, whilst 30-38 percent of Africans in the UK face the same problem.

“People with darker skin tones are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. This is because they have higher levels of melanin in their skin, which increases skin pigmentation making it difficult for the skin to produce vitamin D.”

What are the main symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?

According to Mr Kanani, fatigue is the main symptom. This can be both physical and mental tiredness.
Other symptoms listed include:
• Bone and muscle pain
• Hair loss
• Mood changes.

As well as symptoms, a vitamin D deficiency can be confirmed by a blood test. After this, treatment will begin. Mr Kanani said patients will then be advised on what they need to do to get their levels back up to a normal level.

Mr Kanani said: “400-800 IU a day should meet the needs of most healthy people. However, if you are deficient (or do not get much sunshine), you may need to take 1,000 IU or more for a period of time.

“There is not a recommended daily amount of time you need to spend in the sun in order to meet the body’s vitamin D requirements.

“This is because there are several factors involved that vary depending on the individual, such as skin colour and how much skin you have exposed.”

Furthermore, Mr Kanani added: “It is important to note however, that your body cannot produce vitamin D by sitting next to a window, even if the sun is shining through.

“This is because the ultraviolet B rays that your skin needs to make vitamin D cannot get through glass. You should safely expose your skin to the sun, taking care to apply sun protection to lower the risk of skin cancer.

“Try to avoid prolonged periods in the sun without a break. In the UK, the rays from the sun do not contain enough ultraviolet B rays in order to make vitamin D during the winter.”

“During these months, you can obtain vitamin D from foods and supplements.”

Other supplements recommended include cod liver oil that “has a high level of vitamin D,” said Mr Kanani.

He added: “Fish such as salmon and tuna also contain high levels of vitamin D. beef and eggs also have vitamin D. For vegans or vegetarians, mushrooms and fortified foods such as cereals and soy milk.”

However, it is important not to take too much vitamin D.

Taking too much of the vitamin can lead to damage to the heart, bones, kidneys.

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