Vitamin D

In this article we’ll look at the sources of Vitamin D and how it is used in the body, as well as provide information on Vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D

This article has been medically approved by Superintendent Pharmacist Shilpa Shailen Karia, MRPharmS. - GPhC Reg No: 2087328

Vitamin D is essential for keeping bones strong and healthy, but how much do you know? Read our article below to find out more about Vitamin D.

Where do I find Vitamin D?

We get most vitamins from the food we eat but Vitamin D is unique. Although it can be found in a small number of foods including: egg yolks, red meat, fortified foods, liver, and oily fish, most of our Vitamin D comes from natural sunlight. Our bodies absorb the sunlight and process this to make Vitamin D.

From late March/early April to the end of September most people should be able to get all their required Vitamin D from sunlight, but this is not the case between October and March.

Vitamin D is also available in multivitamins and as a standalone supplement.

Should I take a Vitamin D supplement?

The Department of Health recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement of 0.01mg, while babies and children aged six months to five years should take a vitamin drop containing 0.007-0.0085mg of Vitamin D per day.

Infant formula already contains Vitamin D so supplements may not be necessary for babies fed with formula milk. Breastfed babies may need a Vitamin D drop from one month of age if their mother was not taking Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.

Those over 65 years of age, or anyone who is not exposed to much sunlight (for example people who are housebound) should take a daily supplement of 0.01mg.

People with dark skin do not absorb sunlight as easily as those with light skin, so your risk of low Vitamin D may be high if you have dark skin and live in the northern hemisphere. It's worth noting that overcast summers and sedentary indoor lifestyles can put all of us at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency. It's important to be outside for some of the time between the sunniest months of April through to October between the hours of 11am-3pm. Some 10-15 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen should be sufficient to enable you to store up enough Vitamin D for your needs without risking sunburn.

COVID-19 and Vitamin D

With the current government recommendation that we all stay home where possible[1], this may result in people not getting enough Vitamin D from sunlight. Public Health England are advising that everyone should be taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D[2][3]. This includes children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and older people.

Ensuring you are getting the right amount of Vitamin D will protect your bone and muscle health during this time.

Why do I need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps us to absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphate which are important for retaining good bone health and for keeping our teeth strong. Vitamin D may help slow the progression of the bone weakening disease osteoporosis and may also play a role in keeping the immune system strong. Many experts believe Vitamin D is protective against a range of diseases including cancer.

How will I know if I am lacking in Vitamin D?

Too little Vitamin D can results in bone deformities in children including rickets - a condition that causes the bones to become soft and malformed. In adults it can cause bone pain and tenderness due to a condition called osteomalacia.

You can also buy LetsGetChecked Vitamin D Test to test for Vitamin D deficiency.

Can Vitamin D ever be harmful?

You should not consume more than 0.025mg in Vitamin D supplements per day. This is because too many Vitamin D supplements over a long period of time will lead to the absorption of too much calcium which can lead to kidney damage. In addition, an excess of Vitamin D may lead to calcium being removed from the bones causing them to become soft and weak.