MOST of us will be familiar with vitamin D but according to research one in five people don’t get enough of the “sunshine” vitamin.
So what exactly is vitamin D deficiency and how can you find out if you aren’t getting enough? Here’s what you need to know.
What is vitamin D deficiency and how can I get tested?
Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to rickets, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
Around one in five adults are thought to be lacking in the “sunshine vitamin”, but 79 per cent ignore government prompts to take a supplement.
The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight – so those in cooler and less sunny climates, like the UK, have a higher risk.
People with darker skin need more sunlight than those with pale skin to generate enough vitamin D.
Those who spend most of their time indoors or have their skin covered when outdoors are upping the risk.
Also vulnerable are people with long-standing conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. are more susceptible.
- Muscle or joint pain and weakness
- Tiredness/ fatigue
- Bone pain
- Low mood
The blood test you need is called a 25(OH)D blood test.
Speak to your doctor if you have symptoms.
You could also order a self-testing kit. Check out betteryou.com/vitamin-d-testing-service for a £28 at-home testing kit
Can Vitamin D tablets help prevent colds?
Taking vitamin D tablets daily or weekly can protect against colds and flu, research shows.
Those who take the 2p-a-pill “sunshine vitamin” regularly cut their chances of respiratory infection by 12 per cent — the protection level the flu vaccine offers.
There is evidence to suggest those with respiratory problems can lower the risks with the tablets.
A study by Queen Mary University London found those with the biggest deficiencies who took it daily cut their risk by half.
Vitamin D is thought to fend off respiratory infections by boosting antibiotic-like substances in the lungs.
It is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight and found in fatty fish, cheese and egg yolk, but most people do not get enough.
But “sun safe” messages about skin cancer have led to more people covering up when outside and most people do not get enough vitamin D in their diet.
The results fit with the observation that colds and flu are most common in winter and spring, when levels of vitamin D are at their lowest.
Respiratory infections lead to 35,000 deaths and 300,000 hospital admissions a year in the UK.
Researchers say the findings strengthen the argument for fortifying foods with vitamin D – such as cereals, orange juice and dairy products.
Study leader Professor Adrian Martineau said 3.25 million fewer people get at least one acute respiratory infection each year if everyone took a daily or weekly vitamin D supplement.
Prof Adrian Martineau said: “This research has yielded the first definitive evidence that vitamin D really does protect against respiratory infections.
“Fortification provides a steady, low-level intake of vitamin D that has virtually eliminated profound deficiency in several countries.”
What food is vitamin D found in?
Vitamin D is vital to help your body absorb calcium as well as strengthening the immune system.
It is found in:
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Fortified foods such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
- Red meat
- Egg yolks