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What’s the Story with Vitamin D?

Posted on 26 September, 2010

Are you wondering why a blog about Vitamin D? 90% of our Vitamin D (sometimes called ‘cholecalciferol’) is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. If you are looking at this site it is likely that you are interested in your skin and it is important to know a little bit about the functions of the skin other than those we can see. As we know all too well we happen to live in a very dark country and the result of this is that it is thought that well over half of the people in the UK don’t have enough Vitamin D. The skin needs to be exposed to direct sunlight for the UVB rays to convert cholesterol in our bodies to vitamin D and people with darker skins require more UVB rays than those with lighter skin. It is also thought that one of the main reasons for low levels of vitamin d is that we just spend a lot more time indoors now than we used now that we have so much technology to at our disposal. It is possible that the use of sun screens may further the problem of vitamin D deficiency by blocking out UVB rays but skin protection from the sun is essential to prevent us from burning, to reduce cancer and ageing risks.          

What's it for?  

You’re probably aware that Vitamin D is essential for bone health, that is the development and maintenance of strong bones which is important enough in itself. Rickets (where the legs are bow shaped due to ‘soft bones’) can be one of the diseases that occur as a direct result of Vitamin D deficiency.  However Vitamin D Deficiency is currently an area of a huge amount of research owing to the fact that vitamin D is thought to be linked with many of the diseases that affect us commonly in this country, to name a few – type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and  multiple sclerosis. There is also evidence to suggest that there is a link between low levels of vitamin D and obesity.          

Natural sources of Vitamin D

As previously stated, Vitamin D is made in the body to a certain extent. Vitamins are classified as such by being essential organic nutrients that the body cannot make itself or cannot make in enough quantities. We do get some of our Vitamin D through our diets which accounts for it just making the criteria as a vitamin. As Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin this means our bodies can store it away which is a good thing.  Some of the foods containing Vitamin D are:  Oily fish, Liver, Egg yolk, Mushrooms, Cheese. milk and butter.        

Vitamin D Supplements

Often there are no signs or symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency so we can’t really tell when we are deficient although some people may experience muscular aches and pains or weakness and bony pains. We still don’t know all the facts about Vitamin D and its role in the body. In the same way, we don’t really know how much you should take. Your level of sun exposure, the pigmentation of your skin, your weight and health status are all factors that affect your body’s requirement to supplement Vitamin D. The best way to find out is by having a blood test. However you may just decide to start a vitamin D supplement anyway.   If you are going to supplement with a tablet, look for vitamin D3 rather than D2 as D3 is thought to be more effective. As with all vitamins you can take too much vitamin D but the latest evidence would suggest that it should be around 400 – 1000 international units a day. You can buy supplements from health food shops. Always discuss any other supplements you take as there may already be Vitamin D present and if you have any ongoing health problems always discuss supplements with your doctor.  There will be more evidence emerging about the roles of Vitamin D and more effective guidance on how much to take  so watch this space!