Should We Take Vitamin D Supplements During Wintertime?
About Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It helps with the regulation of calcium and phosphorus, which are both important minerals for maintaining healthy bones.
Previous advice has focused on the importance of vitamin D for bone health, but it is now thought that it also offers benefits for respiratory health. New research published in the British Medical Journal has found that regular supplements of vitamin D can reduce the risk of getting a respiratory tract infection.
It is also thought that vitamin D may reduce the risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
A vitamin D deficiency can cause bone deformities in children, and it adults it can lead to softening of the bones and osteoporosis.
The main source of vitamin D for most people is sunlight. It is created by the body after spending time outdoors in the sun without sunscreen. A fairly short amount of time outdoors with hands, arms or legs uncovered should be sufficient. It’s not possible to say exactly how much time is needed in the sun, as factors such as skin colour can affect how much vitamin D is created. Obviously, precautions need to be taken to avoid sunburn.
Vitamin D can also be found in some foods, such eggs and oily fish.
Who Needs Vitamin D Supplements
It is thought that those who live 37 degrees north of the equator, or 37 degrees south, may not be getting enough vitamin D. This is because there may not be enough UVB exposure all year round to enable the body to make adequate amounts of the vitamin.
In the USA and Canada, as well as in Nordic countries, food such as milk and orange juice is fortified with vitamin D. This is less common in the UK, but some margarines and breakfast cereals are fortified.
It has long been believed that most people are able to get their recommended daily intake of vitamins from eating a balanced diet, but it seems that this may not be the case with vitamin D. Although the vitamin is found in some foods, it is thought that the amount found naturally in foods would only form a small percentage of the recommended daily intake.
Those who may be at particular risk of vitamin D deficiency include children under five and those who do not spend much time outdoors.
Some northern latitude countries recommend that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.
The Pros And Cons Of Vitamin D Supplementation
The main advantage of taking a vitamin D supplement is that it makes it easier to ensure that you are getting a sufficient amount of the vitamin all year round. As previously mentioned, certain northern latitude countries do not get enough UVB exposure during the winter months, so increasing the amount of time spent outside will not ensure sufficient vitamin D. In countries where fortification of food with vitamin in D is less common, it will be particularly difficult to get an adequate amount from the diet.
There are certain circumstances in which taking a vitamin D supplement may not be safe. Medical conditions such as high levels of calcium in the blood and hardening of the arteries could be made worse by vitamin D supplementation. Caution also needs to be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It can also be unsafe to take vitamin D at particularly high levels.
It is advisable to seek medical advice before starting vitamin D supplementation to ensure that it is suitable for you. Please do not take any supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding or if you have any medical conditions without first consulting your doctor.
In countries that do not get enough UVB exposure during winter, many people may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement. The amount recommended may vary between countries, as well as between different groups in the population.
As with any supplementation, please consult your healthcare provider to find out the recommendation for your own circumstances.
This article is for information only and not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements.