Your Vitamin D Is About To Run Dry – Experts Say We Need To Take Action Now

Time to get outside on your lunch break.
WFP – work from park.
recep-bg via Getty Images
WFP – work from park.

Remember when you were younger and your mum had to force you to take your vitamins? Yes, she was annoying but she may have been on to something. The use of supplements and vitamins is a widely debated topic but there is one vitamin we all do need: vitamin D.

25% of Brits suffer from a vitamin D deficiency and according to Becky Graham, a qualified nutritionist at leading vitamin water producer Get More Vits, that number seems to be growing.

Our daily intake of vitamin D should be 10ug, the UK Government says. February tends to be the month of the year when our intake is depleted so now is the time to make sure we’re getting enough time in the sun and the right nutrients.

“Exposure to sunlight during the summer months provides us with the bare minimum levels of vitamin D, but during the winter months, with reduced access to sunlight as well as the position of the UK in the Northern hemisphere, means it’s impossible to get enough,” Graham says.

Graham continues: “If you add to this our predominantly indoor lifestyle and liberal use of sunscreen, then it’s no surprise that around 25% of the British population are deficient in Vitamin D.”

People who are particularly at risk include vegans and vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children, people suffering from obesity, the elderly, people with darker skin, and those who regularly cover their skin.

Looking to increase your vitamin D intake?

1. Spend as much time outside as possible

A study looking at Caucasian adults between the ages of 20-60 in the UK looked at how much time we need to spend outdoors to obtain enough vitamin D levels year-round without being sunburnt.

They found that nine minutes of direct sun exposure on the forearms and legs every day, specifically at lunchtime, were needed during the months between March and September for 25(OH)D levels to remain at the required ≥25 nmol/L throughout the winter.

Whilst another study found those with darker skin need 25 minutes per day during the same months. People over 60 are at a disadvantage, as they have a reduced capacity to manufacture vitamin D in the skin, so supplementing is advised.

2. Eat vitamin D-containing foods

Dietary sources that include the active form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are usually from animal origins such as beef liver, oily fish, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks and cheese.

There is a small amount of vitamin D also found in pork, chicken, and turkey. To get enough to meet daily requirements, you would need to eat one large salmon fillet per day or 10 eggs, it is almost impossible to get enough from food alone.

3. Put your mushrooms in the sun!

Vitamin D plant-based sources include mushrooms and tofu, however, they contain the less active form vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and at lower levels. Like humans, mushrooms can also manufacture vitamin D in their skin through exposure to UV rays.

Wild mushrooms tend to have a higher vitamin D content than those that are commercially grown due to their access to sunlight, but you can increase their vitamin D content, so put them in a sunny spot like your windowsill.

4. Eat fortified foods

Due to low levels of vitamin D naturally available from dietary sources, many foods have vitamin D added such as dairy milk, plant milks, orange juice, fortified spreads, and breakfast cereals.

This is usually clearly labelled on the packaging, so it’s worth adding them to your shopping list.

5. Take a supplement

Most of us would benefit from supplementing with vitamin D, but you can get more nutritional bang for your buck by choosing supplements that contain vitamin D3, which is 87% more potent than the plant form of vitamin D2.

Although the government recommends 10ug/400IU per day, it is important to know that this is the level given to prevent disease rather than for optimal health. Supplements contain around 1000IU – 4000IU, which is also considered safe for humans.

Those with a diagnosed deficiency may need a higher dose of vitamin D. Your GP can check your levels with a blood test and there are also private testing options available that you can do at home.