Missing out on the “sunshine vitamin” has consequences for more than just bone health. Below you will find few of the reasons why we have included this essential vitamin in all of our lifestyle products.
How Vitamin D3 works?
The sun’s rays provide ultraviolet B (UVB) energy, and the skin uses it to start making vitamin D. The skin actually produces a precursor:25(OH)D that is converted into the active form of the vitamin by the liver and kidneys.
Why do I need it?
Vitamin D is best known for its vital role in bone health and immune system. Without it the body can’t absorb the calcium it ingests, so it steals calcium from bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
The vitamin contributes to the normal function of the immune system and helps the body make antimicrobial weapons that puncture holes in bacteria and viruses that could cause colds and flu.
It also helps maintain normal blood levels of phosphorus, another bone-building mineral.
Vitamin D is active in many tissues and cells besides bones and controls an enormous number of genes (more than 200), including some associated with cancers, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease,flu and infection.
Hardly a month goes by without news about the risks of vitamin D deficiency or about a potential role for the vitamin in warding off diseases, including breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and even schizophrenia.
In search of vitamin D
In an utopian world and under the ‘right circumstances’ 10 to 15 minutes of sun on the arms and legs a few times a week can generate nearly all the vitamin D we need.
Unfortunately, the “right circumstances” are elusive: the season, the extended working hours during daytime, where you live, cloud coverage, pollution are all factors that affect the amount of UVB that reaches our skin.
What’s more, our skin’s production of vitamin D is influenced by:
- age: people aged 65 and over generate only one-fourth as much as people in their 20s do
- skin colour: the darker the skin the less vitamin D in the blood, especially for African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin
- sunscreen: possibly interferes with sun-related vitamin D production, further research is on-going.
Where can I find it through nutrition?
Lack of sun exposure would be less of a problem if diet provided adequate vitamin D. Unfortunately, there aren’t many foods rich in vitamin D rich and you will need to eat a lot of them to cover your daily needs.
List of foods rich in Vitamin D:
- seafood, and especially naturally oily fish, such as mackerel, halibut, sardines, herring, trout, salmon
- whole milk, natural yogurt and cheese, ideally organic. Please note that semi-skimmed dairy products come as a second option, due to their lower concentrations in fat soluble vitamins
- egg yolk
and last but not least the vegan options:
- mushrooms with varieties worth having a go: portobello, maitake or oyster mushrooms for a higher content
- tofu, ideally firm
- milk alternatives such as almond and soymilk
- vitamin D fortified cereals
Winter sunlight in UK
In the UK, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation in winter for our skin to be able to make vitamin D. During these months, we rely on getting our vitamin D from food sources including fortified foods and supplements. Using sunbeds is not a recommended way of making vitamin D.
Unless you live in the South, Mediterranean sea or an exotic island -you wish–and spend a fair amount of time outdoors, or you like eating lots of fatty fish and vitamin D–fortified foods, supplements with bio-available forms of vitamin D is a reliable and easy way to make sure you’re getting enough of your vitamin D during the day, always as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Dietary Reference Values of Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom: Report of the Panel on Dietary Reference Values of the Committee on … (Reports of Health and Social Subjects) Paperback – 9 Jul 1991 by Great Britain: Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (Author), & 2 more
Human Nutrition, 12e Paperback – 22 Oct 2010 by Catherine Geissler BDS MS PhD RNutr (Author, Editor), Hilary Powers BSc PhD RNutr (Author, Editor)