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Let that sunshine into your life

October 2019

woman soaking up the sunshine
We all need vitamin D in our lives

It is now known that Vitamin D is absolutely essential for our health. A lack of this vital vitamin can lead to all sorts of physical problems including heart disease and certain cancers; or even depression and schizophrenia.

There is research showing vitamin D deficiency can be involved in obesity because it can interfere with the hormone leptin, which signals our brain to tell it we are full and should stop eating. Other studies have shown vitamin D is involved in helping to strengthen our immune systems and also influence a number of key functions including the production of insulin, rennin, serotonin and estrogen.

Better known is the fact that vitamin D helps to process the entry of calcium into our bodies to strengthen our bones. Hence the problems of rickets and bone deformity in the past when certain sectors of society simply didn’t get enough sunlight or vitamin D enriched foods.

Either way, today we know that vitamin D is absolutely vital to our wellbeing.

Generally it used to be thought that most people who are exposed to normal levels of sunlight do not need any supplements. That may still be the case in summer.... with our lovely long days, we should all be out and about enough to absorb enough sunlight to boost our vitamin D levels to acceptable levels.

But winter is very different. Generally our days are shorter and darker, with far less sunlight. Interestingly , above 42 degrees north latitude, even if we enjoy lots of cool crisp but sunny winter days, the sun’s rays are at such a steep angle that it is unlikely we will be able to absorb enough to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. When you think that all of our country is well over the 42 degrees level...Portsmouth on the south coast for instance is at 50 degrees north – the importance of considering our vitamin D levels in winter becomes very clear indeed.

It may well be worth talking to your doctor if you have any doubts about your vitamin D levels in winter. There is now an accurate way to measure this through a blood test; it is called the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 ng/mL (nanograms/millilitre) to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level of less than 12 ng/mL indicates definite vitamin D deficiency. There are advertised blood tests for Vitamin D levels online, where you can send away samples yourself; but as with anything online, you need to carefully check the background and verification.

As winter comes, we can look to ensuring we assist our levels with food that can offer a boost to our levels of vitamin D. Foods such as fatty fish (tuna, mackerel and salmon), beef liver, cheese and egg yolks all supply good levels of vitamin D. You can also look out for vitamin D enriched products, especially in some dairy products, orange juice and cereals.

As an example of how food can help, 3.5 oz of cooked salmon or mackerel can provide around 350 international units of vitamin C. This can be measured against the suggested required intake of 600 international units for day for people up to the age of 70 and 800 international units daily for people over 70. Some studies suggest that a higher level of daily intake of 1000 international units plus is needed to maintain optimal blood levels.

Interestingly that cod liver oil that our grandmothers used to talk about was not just an old wives’ tale...a tablespoon full of cod liver oil provides up to 1000 international units.

The big problem with all this is that it is not an exact science. But being aware of vitamin D levels during winter makes a lot of sense. Getting out and about on a regular basis partnered with a good diet should go a long way to ensuring your vitamin D levels are kept at an adequate level even through our winter months; but if you have any concern at all then, as always, it is best to talk to your own physician.


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