Who is at risk of having low Vitamin D?
Everyone living above latitude 37° North [this includes the UK]
Everyone living below latitude 37° South [see map below]
Anyone who is obese
Anyone who is dark skinned and living away from the equator
Those who are always covered up or use sun cream when in the sun
What happens to me if I don’t have enough? Lack of vitamin D is known to cause:
* Bone growth abnormalities in children e.g rickets, [rickets is again becoming prevalent in the UK]
* Osteoporosis [brittle bones in adults] with increased risk of bone fracture. Adequate Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium from food, thus insuring strong, healthy bones and teeth. Click here for more information.
* Impaired immune system function
* Generalised muscle and bone aches, pains, weakness and tiredness.
* Osteomalacia [soft bones and bone pain in adults]
In addition, lack of Vitamin D is associated with:
• Multiple sclerosis • Psoriasis • Depression • High blood pressure • Diabetes • Arthritis •
• Increased risk of some cancers including breast; prostate; colon •
• Heart Disease • Chronic Pain • Chronic fatigue syndrome •
A simple blood test which your GP can arrange or we can do for you.
- There are basically 4 ways of getting extra Vitamin D: Sunshine; Sunbed; Tablets; Diet. As well as Vitamin D, please ensure you also have adequate calcium in your diet, click here for more information.
- SUNSHINE – You can take a holiday in a sunny climate; the action of the sun’s rays on your skin, without sun cream, will make Vitamin D. This is the best source of vitamin D. The amount of time you should spend in the sun without sun cream will vary according to your skin type and according to the intensity of the sun. If you know that it will take 20 minutes for your skin to develop a very slight pink colour in a specific climate, this is what is known as your MED time. When you are in this climate you should expose your arms and legs [not face] for HALF this time, 3 times a week, on different days. If you are exposing more skin, e.g. you are in a bathing suit, then exposure for one QUARTER of the MED time will be adequate. After adequate exposure you must apply a sun cream that will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays, sometimes called a broad spectrum sun cream. See below for further advice on sun creams. We are happy to advise in greater detail for your specific situation, skin type and geographical location. It is not possible for the body to make too much Vitamin D from sun or sunbed exposure, but it is possible to burn. Please ensure that after adequate exposure, as described above, you take action to prevent continued exposure e.g. go indoors, put on sun cream, cover up.
- TABLETS – We can provide you with Vitamin D tablets; the Doctor will advise how much you need and this will depend on your blood results. If your Vitamin D level is very low, you will be put on a high dose tablet for 3 – 4 months and then re-tested. When your Vitamin D levels are satisfactory, you will be put on a lower dose for maintenance.
- SUNBED – You can use a sunbed as long as certain precautions are in place. Sunbed use is as effective as sunlight with regard to skin manufacture of Vitamin D. The sunbed should have both UVA and UVB rays; UVA rays should comprise 94 – 97.5% of rays and UVB 2.5 – 6% of rays; low or medium pressure lamps should be used – look for fluorescent tubes, not round lamps; use sun cream on the face; wear goggles; do not put any oil on the skin [this magnifies and intensifies the rays]; exposure should be for a quarter of the MED time [see above] – this will allow synthesis of approximately 10,000 IU Vitamin D. The body will store any excess.
- DIET – Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods and cannot be relied upon to provide you with an adequate supply. Foods containing vitamin D include some oily fish [but ONLY if they are wild and therefore part of the food chain, NOT if they are farmed], fish liver oils [not a good idea because of the high Vitamin A content], and eggs. In many countries milk, orange juice, bread and cereals have Vitamin D artificially added. An average adult requirement is approximately 2,500 International Units [IU] per day.
|Food||Serving||Vitamin D (IU)|
|Pink salmon, wild, canned||3 ounces||530|
|Sardines, wild, canned||3 ounces||230|
|Mackerel, wild, canned||3 ounces||200|
|Egg yolk||1 large||20|
There are 2 ultraviolet [UV] rays from the sun that concern us:
* UVA UVA rays cause ageing changes in the skin;
UVA rays can pass through glass, shade and cloud all year round;
The SPF [sun protection factor] of sun creams relates solely to UVB, not UVA.
UVA rays will pass through sun cream of ANY SPF, unless the sun cream also provides additional protection specifically to block out UVA.
Many sun creams block out UVB only and continue to let UVA rays pass into the skin.
A sun cream which blocks out both UVA and UVB rays will state on the bottle that it does this, or it will be labelled a ‘broad spectrum’ sun cream.
* UVB UVB rays cause burning;
UVB rays are essential for the production of Vitamin D which is made by the action of UVB rays on the skin [but only when the skin does not have sun cream on it]. Vitamin D in our diet is minimal and will not provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D;
UVB rays will not pass through glass, cloud, shade or sun cream;
Ideally, you need to have some exposure to the sun without sun cream in order for your skin to make adequate Vitamin D, as explained above. And then you need to apply broad spectrum sun cream.
Getting adequate sunshine to make enough Vitamin D, while still ensuring you don’t over-expose yourself is complicated: it depends on skin colour, time of year, time of day, distance from the equator, amount of skin exposed and the length of time the skin is exposed for. Correct advice for sensible sun exposure varies from one person to another.
We sell sun cream which blocks both UVA and UVB – please look after yourself and ask us about it.
How much calcium do I need?
About 1000 mg [milligrams] per day. You should easily get this in your diet.
What foods do I get it in?
Many foods contain calcium but particularly excellent sources are:
- all cheeses except cottage cheese
- Curry powder
- Mustard powder
- Sesame seeds
- Fish paste
- Canned salmon [with bones] and sardines [the calcium is in the bones]
- Parsley [6 sprigs / 3 teaspoons will give you 1000mg calcium, your daily need!]
Remember that Calcium is absorbed from food only in the presence of Vitamin D.
What do I need Calcium for?
Strong bones and teeth
Normal blood clotting
Transmission of nerve impulses throughout the body
Regulation of enzymes in chemical reactions throughout the body
Regulation of insulin secretion which in turn controls blood sugar levels
Skeletal muscle and heart muscle contraction
Blood vessel expansion and contraction
Secretion of hormones and enzymes
Everyone living above latitude 37° North [this includes the UK] and below latitude 37° South are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.