As more of us stay at home, health officials recommend people consider taking daily vitamin D supplements throughout the spring and summer. Should you?
The Government is currently asking people to stay at home and for many, that means being indoors for much of the day. This could result in not getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure.
The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors in spring and summer. Public Health England is recommending that people consider taking a Vitamin D supplement in spring and summer as the lockdown continues.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for regulating calcium and phosphorus levels in the body which is important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. A lack of vitamin D can cause bone deficiencies such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Vitamin D helps ward off illness and infections such as the common cold or flu. While there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin D boosts your immune system, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have identified that vitamin D may help regulate it. The study investigated how vitamin D affects the immune system and the ability of dendritic cells to activate T cells which are important in fighting infection. Another study found that vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection among all participants.
Can vitamin D stop coronavirus?
No, unfortunately not. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, says: ‘There is not sufficient evidence to support recommending vitamin D for reducing the risk of Covid-19.’
However, Spanish researchers have started a trial to see if the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D can prevent coronavirus systems from worsening.
What is the current advice?
Existing Public Health England advice is to take a supplement containing vitamin D of 10 micrograms a day during the winter months (October to March). If you are not going outdoors often while stay at home measures are in place, it is recommended that you take a supplement to keep your vitamin D at healthy levels. This includes children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and older people.
Adults should not have more than 100 micrograms a day and if they are going to take supplements the recommended amount is 10 micrograms a day.
A doctor may recommend higher doses to those with a proven vitamin D deficiency. Always consult medical advice.
Can I get vitamin D from food?
Eating a well-balanced diet such as is important for good health and can help support your immune system and our fresh, healthy, nutritionally balanced food boxes give you all you need to eat healthily throughout the day.
Vitamin D rich foods include oily fish, eggs, some breakfast cereals, nut milks, margarines and yoghurts that are fortified with vitamin D, but you cannot get enough vitamin D from food alone.
What about sunshine?
Exposure to sunlight is a good source of vitamin D but should be balanced with staying safe in the sun. Take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen to prevent sun damage. Those with dark skin will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.
If it is possible for you to do so, follow government advice and try to use your one form of exercise to go outdoors, while maintaining a safe distance from others.
Where can I buy vitamin D?
Vitamin D is available in most pharmacies, health shops and supermarkets. Please do not buy more than you need.