Vitamin D is vital in the diet and is involved in a host of bodily functions, the main one being the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body. This vitamin is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin as your body synthesizes it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. However, given that the current work environment is primarily indoors, it comes as no surprise that almost an eight of the population has vitamin D deficiency and around 50% of the global population has insufficient vitamin D.
The sunshine vitamin is a fat-soluble nutrient that is pivotal to bone health and immunity. It has also been linked to cancer prevention and protection against several chronic conditions, including depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D to attain the maximum benefits are 600 IU (15mcg) daily for adults aged 19 years and older, and 800 IU (20mcg) daily for those aged over 70 years.
Remember: Consuming too much vitamin D, defined as more than 4000 IU (100mcg) can have the opposite effect and be harmful.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause numerous symptoms and often presents as a combination of fatigue, inability to sleep, bone pain and aches, feelings of sadness, hair loss, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and frequent illnesses and infections. A deficiency in this nutrient is defined as having levels below 20ng/mL, whilst insufficiency is defined as levels between 21-29ng/mL. There is no single cause for vitamin D deficiency, and low levels often result from a combination of factors. Yet, there are several variables and lifestyle factors that may increase your risk of not having enough vitamin D. This includes being older, having overweight or obesity, not consuming enough dietary vitamin D, staying and working indoors, working night shifts, having chronic liver or kidney disease, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, and consuming medications that hinder the metabolism of vitamin D, such as statins and steroids. Although we should all consider if we are consuming enough vitamin D if you present with any of these risk factors, increasing your intake is even more important.
You may now be wondering, is vitamin D deficiency taking my glow and how do I increase my intake of this nutrient? Getting outdoors is the best way to increase vitamin D levels in the body. During the lighter months, usually from March to the end of August/September, most people are able to get all the vitamin D they need from the sunlight. Nonetheless, this is not always possible, particularly during the winter months. Therefore, increasing dietary intake of vitamin D is crucial. Vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, including oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and other fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals. For those who cannot commit to eating these foods regularly, dietary vitamin D supplements are ideal and easily accessible.
If you are unsure about your vitamin D status or believe you may have or be at risk of deficiency, get tested now. If it turns out that you are indeed Vitamin D deficient, you should consult with a healthcare professional to start an adequate treatment.