Since 2016 the UK government have suggested EVERYONE (>1-year-old) should supplement with 10ug of vitamin D during the months Oct-April.
Not enough people are aware of this and on average in the UK we only get 2.8ug of vitamin D per day from our diet meaning many of us could be suffering from vitamin D deficiency without knowing!
Ok, tell me more.
So the amount of vitamin D in our food is pretty low. Whilst foods like salmon and eggs are examples of rich sources of vitamin D, you would need to eat an unrealistic amount of these foods each day to hit your vitamin D target.
10 eggs per day = 10ug vitamin D
1 fillet salmon per day = 10ug vitamin D*
*It’s recommended that we eat <4 portions oily fish per week (2 portions a week for pregnant women) due to concerns around sea pollutants.
But don’t our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight?
Its true, the actions of UV rays turn the cholesterol in our skin into Vitamin D. However, in the UK from October to April the Sun isn’t strong enough to stimulate this process, which is why we need to supplement in these months.
I’ve heard mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, is that true?
You can get some vitamin D from mushrooms, which is useful to know if you’re vegan/vegetarian. This is only true for mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight; like humans, mushrooms need UV rays to make their vitamin D!
Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been grown in the dark but some supermarkets like Marks and Spencer and Tesco have started selling mushrooms grown under UV light, and so they will contain more vitamin D.
M&S claims that 3 of their mushrooms provide your daily-recommended amount. HOWEVER, you need to be aware that mushrooms contain vitamin D2 which may be less biologically active than vitamin D3, which is the type made in our bodies and found in animal products.
Why we need vitamin D – the evidence.
As is the case with lots of topics in nutrition, the internet is loaded with articles proclaiming vitamin D is a miracle cure for many things from hair loss to cancer. If you’re interested in a comprehensive review of the evidence behind vitamin D and health read the latest SACN report here.
We’ve pulled out some highlights below:
This an area where the evidence for the benefits of vitamin D is the strongest. We know vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, and regulates the metabolism of phosphorus and calcium in our bodies. Calcium and phosphorus are both minerals that are integral to the internal structure of our bones.
Strong Immune System
A recent (2016) study published in the British Medical Journal found that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections (this would include the common cold!). Read more here.
There’s some emerging evidence that supplementing with vitamin D could reduce the incidence of depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter months. However, the evidence is still limited and conflicting but it is a growing area of interest. Read more here.
Which supplements should I be taking?
Take 10ug/day of Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is the biologically active form made in our bodies or found in animal foods, plant-sourced D2 could be less biologically active. If you’re vegan it is possible to get a D3 vegan supplement in health food stores.
Vitamin D is best absorbed with fat so take your supplement with meals