Sunlight and Vitamin D

 
You need vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium. The best source is sunlight, which your body uses during the summer months to manufacture the vital vitamin in your skin. You should try to get ten minutes of sun exposure to your bare skin, once or twice a day, without sunscreen and taking care not to burn. Get outside between May and September so that your body can produce enough Vitamin D to help see you through the winter months. You can also find vitamin D in margarine, egg yolks, cod liver oil and oily fish such as herrings and sardines.
 
You should be able to get enough vitamin D through diet and by enjoying an active, outdoors lifestyle during the summer months. However, some people might be deficient in vitamin D and might benefit from a dietary supplement of vitamin D (see list below). For these groups, an RNI of 10 micrograms is recommended per day (8.5 micrograms for infants under six months, 7 micrograms for children aged six months to three years). High levels of vitamin D for prolonged periods can be toxic so it is important that dietary supplements do not provide more than 25 micrograms of vitamin D daily, unless prescribed for a specific reason by your doctor.
 

Do I Need More Vitamin D?

If you fall into one or more of these categories you may want to think about taking a vitamin D dietary supplement:

  • The housebound, especially frail, older people.**
  • Those with a poor diet.
  • Asian women and children. This group may be deficient in vitamin D because of decreased skin production due to skin pigmentation, dress code and, sometimes, poor dietary vitamin D.
  • Those who wear sun block all the time when outdoors.
  • Pregnant women. This is because a baby’s stores of vitamin D are laid down during pregnancy and are affected by the mother’s vitamin D levels.**
  • Breast feeding women.**
  • Infants and children under three.**
  • Those using long term anti-epileptic drugs because this alters the take-up of vitamin D by the body and can affect the absorption of calcium.
  • People with severe liver, kidney disease or malabsorption problems.
 
**Recommended by the UK Government to take a vitamin D supplement.
 
Please note that if you are fair-skinned, have lots of moles and freckles or have a family history of skin cancer, you should be particularly careful in the sun to reduce your risk of skin cancer, and avoid the strong sunshine in the middle of the day.
 

Will I still get enough vitamin D if I use sun block?

If sun blocks or high factor sunscreens are used on exposed skin all through the summer, this will lower the vitamin D production. Most people use sun blocks or sunscreens if they know they will be in strong sunshine for some time e.g. on the beach, gardening, or for outdoor sports and would not apply if going outside for short periods e.g. hanging out washing, shopping, school playtimes. These short periods of time in the sunlight, without sun block or sunscreen, should give adequate exposure to produce vitamin D. Children and those at risk of skin cancer may need to cover up when the sun is strong. If someone uses sun block for medical reasons at all times, they need vitamin D supplements.
 

Taken from National Osteoporosis Society website www.nos.org.uk

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