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Vitamin D - do we desperately need more?

Some recent headlines have suggested that a lack of sunshine in the UK, and particularly in Scotland, could be putting our health, and even our life expectancy, at serious risk. This is thought to be, in part, down to an extreme lack of vitamin D. Here we discuss these findings and outline some advice to help.

There’s no denying we’re low in this nutrient...

There’s no denying as a nation we tend to fall short in vitamin D levels, and up in Scotland where the sunshine is even less generous, we might well be affected to an even greater extent.3

However, when it comes to life expectancy, is vitamin D really a defining factor? Whilst we can’t rule out some other possibilities such as the impact of socio-economic inequalities, vitamin D levels could well be linked.

Socio-economic status can also impact how we eat, how much time we spend outside and how often we take nutritional supplements, so there could certainly be a number of contributing factors.

What can be done to help?

Whilst we aren’t yet sure of the causality of low vitamin D rates and life expectancy, aiming to up our intake is most likely to be a sensible approach; and here’s how you can go about it:Prioritise sunshine

1. Prioritise sunshine

Getting out into the fresh air as much as possible is thought to be beneficial for a number of reasons. It may help to improve fitness levels, our mood and, of course, we’re able to get a good dose of vitamin D whilst we’re at it!

Sunshine is our main source of vitamin D – your skin, together with some help from your liver and kidneys, helps to convert the sun’s rays into vitamin D in your body. From there, it can be stored up until you need it most.

To help maximise vitamin D benefits from the sun we shouldn’t be afraid to show some skin for 10-30 minutes per day; but just be sure to take extra precautions if you’re planning to be outside for longer during periods of stronger sunlight.

2. Include dietary sources

Whilst the dietary sources of vitamin D are somewhat limited - every little helps when it comes to this important nutrient! Stock up on oily fish, eggs and mushrooms regularly in order to help maximise your intake.

3. Top up with a supplement

As vitamin D is thought to play a role in so many vital bodily functions including maintaining muscle and joint health, immune functions and our mood, it’s no surprise that there have been links with life expectancy.

As a result of this, together with the concerns that we could be already falling short in vitamin D, the recommended daily amount of vitamin D has been set at 10ug for adults.

Then, as the likelihood is that we will struggle to hit this requirement naturally, especially in winter or in more Northern parts of the country, many people are turning to supplements to help ensure they meet their daily quota and reap the benefits!