Vitamin D is vital to our health
How to make vitamin D should be something we should all be concerned about. Missing out on the “sunshine vitamin” has consequences for more than just bone health.
But to be clear, whilst it is called a vitamin and is recognised as a vitamin. It is actually a hormone.
Below you will find a few of the reasons why we make this essential vitamin in all of our lifestyle products.
How Vitamin D3 works? How to make it
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 known as 25(OH)D that is converted into the active form of the vitamin by the liver and kidneys. You also need a good level of cholesterol in or just below the skin.
Why do I need it?
Vitamin D is best known for its vital role in bone health and more recently, the immune system.
For bone health
Without vitamin D the body can’t absorb the calcium it ingests, so it steals calcium from bones. Increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
It also helps maintain normal blood levels of phosphorus, another bone-building mineral.
Immune system health
It contributes to the normal function of the immune system. By helping the body make antimicrobial weapons that puncture holes in bacteria and viruses that could cause colds and flu or worse, coronavirus. Read more about Vitamin D and the immune system.
Vitamin D and its effect on genes
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 having a deficiency or about a potential role for the vitamin in warding off diseases, including COVID-19, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and even schizophrenia.
In search of this vital Vitamin
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 etc 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 of this vitamin in the blood, especially for those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin
- sunscreen: possibly interferes with sun-related vitamin D production, further research is on-going.
Can I get 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 this vitamin and you will need to eat a lot of them to cover your daily needs.
List of foods rich in the sunshine vitamin:
- 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 Southern hemisphere, close to the Mediterranean sea or on an exotic Pacific island – you wish –
spend all your time time outdoors,
you like eating lots of fatty fish or vitamin D fortified foods
the you will need a supplement with a bio-available form of vitamin D. This is the most reliable and easy way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D during the day, always as part of a varied and balanced diet.