Updated: Feb 21, 2019
The Sunshine Vitamin! But what happens in winter?
Is Vitamin D important?
The answer to this is a BIG yes. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Without sufficient vitamin D, our children are at risk of developing rickets (characterised by bowing of the legs). We need Vitamin D to help absorb another nutrient called Calcium - one of the key building blocks for strong, healthy bones & teeth.
Historically, little has been known about why we need Vitamin D, and we are discovering more and more as time goes on. At present, there is increasing thought that this sunlight vitamin is very important to our overall health, immune function and prevention of diseases such as heart disease and cancer, as well as treatment for other illnesses.
How do we get Vitamin D?
At certain times of the year in the UK (Between April – September) we can make Vitamin D through our skin when we’re out in the sunshine, and for a lot of us, this is just about enough to meet our body's needs, providing you are having some dietary sources of Vitamin D.
BUT Vitamin D can only be made in our skin through direct sunlight – without any suncream on. It is difficult to specify an exact amount of time you need to be outside, as this depends on how much skin you expose, the time of day, how fair your skin is.
For example, those with fair skin, in the middle of the day may only need to expose skin for 15 minutes, where as individuals with darker skin may need a few hours in the sun to make the vitamin D their body needs.
“Its really important to try and find a balance between exposing your skin to sunlight in the summer but being mindful that your skin is not left unprotected for long periods due to the risks of burning and skin cancer.”
As a general rule, spend half the amount of time in the sun that it would usually take your skin to burn to give your body what it needs to make Vitamin D.
If you’re worried about exposing your skin to the sun, or on the days you can’t get outside – take a Vitamin D supplement (10microgram/d) – preferably Vitamin D3 as this is more easily absorbed by the Body than Vitamin D2.
What do we do in Winter?
From October – March we cannot make Vitamin D in our skin in the UK, and our sole source is through diet. However, as there are only a few Vitamin D rich foods, such as oily fish, red meat, liver, some fortified cereals, and smaller amounts in margarine, egg yolk, milk, it can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D in the diet.
The Department of Health have made some recommendations about who should consider taking a Vitamin D supplement and when (which you can buy over the counter from the local pharmacy or supermarkets).
Children & Adults
The Department of Health recommend that:
Breastfed babies: 0-6 months should be given a Vitamin D supplement of 8.5-10mcg daily from birth.
Formula fed babies only need an additional 8.5-10mcg vitamin D supplement if they are having less than 500mls (17oz) formula daily.
Infants & children aged 6 months to 5 years should be given a general multivitamin containing Vitamin A, Vitamin C & Vitamin D (10mcg Vitamin D) (unless your baby is having more than 500mls formula daily).
People over 5 years old should consider taking a 10mcg Vitamin D supplement, particularly during the months of October - March
People over 5 years old who have little or limited exposure to sunlight may choose to take a 10mcg Vitamin D supplement all year round.
People with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight during the summer months, and should consider taking 10mcg Vitamin D supplement throughout the year.
Vitamin D is thought to play an important part in your overall health ...so get out there and enjoy the sunshine!