Vitamin D: Should I be Supplementing?

Vitamin D: the ‘sunshine’ vitamin. So with the summer now a distant memory, autumn on the way out and winter setting in, should we be thinking about our Vitamin D levels?

What does Vit D actually do?

Vitamin D is crucial in the body’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet: two vital minerals for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Deficiency in the vitamin can result in bones becoming weakened and soft, and in extreme case can lead to bone deformities. It’s pretty serious stuff! 

D for ‘Disease-Fighting’

In addition to its primary benefit, some research suggests that Vitamin D might play a role in fighting off a range of diseases, from Multiple ScelorisHeart Disease, and even the common Flu (see the links for the relevant publications).

And, as if these benefits of this important Vitamin isn’t enough, Vitamin D deficiency is an even greater concern following a recent study, where researchers looked at 216 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain, and found that 82.2% of all the patients were deficient in Vitamin D. The study also showed that people with the deficiency also had longer hospital stays for COVID-19, as well as a higher prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. So, what better time than now to keep our supply topped up.

Performance

As Vitamin D has a lot to do with having healthy bones, it’s no great surprise that deficiency is associated with high levels of bone related injury in sport (such as stress fractures and such like). But that’s not all – sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D are linked to an increased risk in total body inflammation as well as impaired muscle function. 

The ‘Sunshine’ Vitamin

According to NHS.co.uk, we tend to get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure between the months of April to September. Our bodies naturally produce the vitamin when it’s directly exposed to sunlight, with studies showing that just 10-30 minutes of midday sun on bare arms and legs a few times a week is plenty for most people to keep levels topped up. During the winter months in the UK however, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make Vitamin D, so we rely on getting our dose from food sourses and supplements. 

Food Sources

Vitamin D can only be found naturally in a select few whole foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs. Some processed foods are fortified with Vitamin D too (including some dairy products and cereals) but amounts tend to be low, and the downsides of consuming large amounts of processed foods will likely outweigh the benefit of hitting your Vitamin D RDA!

Should I be taking a Vitamin D supplement?

So let’s talk supplements – and the question of whether or not you should be taking one to keep your Vitamin D levels up. Now we’re not here to tell you what is right or wrong, or to try and sell you a particular brand, but the facts don’t lie: that during the colder months, is is very difficult to get our recommended dose without some kind of intervention. If in doubt, you should talk to your doctor. You can also find online blood tests where you check your vitamin and mineral levels which can be a helpful way to find out if your body is lacking in a particular area.

How much Vitamin D do I need?

The amount of Vitamin D contained in supplements is sometimes expressed in international units (IU), where 40 IU is equal to 1 microgram (1µg) of vitamin D.  For those who choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10μg a day will be enough for most people. Again though, if in doubt, check with your doctor. The recommended levels vary slightly depending on age and if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, so it’s worth checking out the recommend amount for you on NHS.co.uk.

So there you have it in a nutshell – the Vitamin D lowdown! Stay tuned on the SCFIT blog for more articles to help you keep your health and fitness in check, both on and away from the gym floor.

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