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Long Winter causing Vitamin D Deficiency?

on April 2, 2013

With the long drawn out winter, the recent breaks of sunshine we’re experiencing are better for us than many of us may realise.

Our bodies produce the sunshine ‘Vitamin D’ from direct sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D is also produced in much smaller quantities from oily fish, eggs and meat. Sunshine being the preferred supply.

Vitamin D helps with the absorption of Calcium from the diet. We all know how important Calcium is for our bones, hence why deficiency in Vitamin D leads to weakening and softening of bones. In children this leads to Rickets, an old victorian ailment which is now on the increase. Adults can develop Osteomalacia, the adult form of Rickets, which causes bone pain and tenderness.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and we get most of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight

 

Those most at risk are the over-65s, pregnant and breast-feeding women, children under five, people with darker skin and anyone who wears clothing that covers their skin or spends a lot of time indoors — as most of us now do. Also with the extra demands of today’s hectic lifestyles, leaving for work early and arriving home after dark, and juggling everything in-between, our time spent outdoors can be limited. I don’t think we can help wanting to be inside with the sub zero temperatures many of us around the country are experiencing.

 

Dr Oliver Gillie, founder of the Health Research Forum, says recent weather patterns mean many of us will be ­dangerously low on this vitamin.

“Vitamin D deficiency is a major problem because of our climate and because this past summer was so bad for sunshine, there was little chance to build up reserves to last us through this winter.

“Sunbathing can increase a person’s gain in vitamin D substantially during the ­summer putting him or her in the best condition to avoid chronic disease, but that has been impossible.”

An international authority on vitamin D deficiency, Dr Robert Moy, agrees: “An awful summer increases the risk of deficiency, which is reckoned to contribute to a whole range of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

“What is not really known is at what sort of level these risks increase but we probably ought to be supplementing our intake for six months of the year, from October to March.”

 

Sunbathing seems to be the best idea – laying out in the sun, there is nothing that can compare right? But how many of us can get away to tropical climates to sit out in the sun to get our Vitamin D fill. Also with the scares of skin cancer many of us choose to cover up in the sun, rightly so, but at an expense to our Vitamin D production.

 

Supplements are always an option, and are particularly important when sunshine isn’t an option.

The Department of Health recommends at-risk adults have a daily top-up of 10 µg (200% RDA) – try Boots or Holland & Barrett for a supplement.

All children under five can take a daily supplement of 7-8.5 µg, unless they drink formula milk, which is fortified with vitamin D. 

Also with recent developments in food technology, eggs contain 70% more Vitamin D than they did 30 years ago. Breakfast cereals are now also starting to introduce fortification of Vitamin D alongside their B vitamins. But on average, a healthy well balanced diet is unlikely to afford us enough of the sunshine vitamin. Food provides around 10% of our Vitamin D intake.

Your GP can prescribe Vitamin D on the NHS for those in the at risk category.

But as a recent study showed, many so called healthy individualise were unknowingly deficient. This was reported in the Daily Mirror and cited by the British Dietary Association.

 

The-Sunshine-Vitamin

Recent Vitamin D Studies

A Danish study of 10,000 people last year found low levels increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 81%, while US Department of Health ­researchers reported that high levels cut the risk of stroke by 11%.

A Canadian study of 1,200 women found those who regularly took a vitamin D supplement cut their cancer risk by 60%.

There was also evidence of protection against breast, lung and bowel cancer — the three most deadly forms, which claim 62,400 lives in the UK annually.

Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease are some of the health problems linked to low levels.

Patterns of disease also point to the importance of vitamin D. Multiple ­sclerosis (MS), a degenerative neurological condition which affects on average 100,000 people in the UK, is much more common in northern ­climates, where lack of sunlight means vitamin D deficiency is common.

In England and Wales it is estimated that MS affects about one in 1,000 people, but in Scotland it is twice that and in Orkney, one of the most northerly parts of the UK, four in 1,000 people have MS — the highest incidence in the world.

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