Five Top Tips on Vitamin D

How do you know if you are getting enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is termed the Sunshine Vitamin.  This is due to your body making Vitamin D through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sunlight (specifically UVB radiation).  This synthesis of Vitamin D is inactive until it is taken to the liver and kidney to activate it.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is responsible for the intestinal absorption of the minerals magnesium, calcium and phosphate, which are linked to bone health. Vitamin D deficiency rates can be as high as 90% in some countries due to a lack of sun exposure, for example due to the cultural covering up and lack of time in the sun, or the summer being so hot in some countries that people don’t go out in the sun for long enough to get adequate exposure.  If you are low in Vitamin D it can lead to many health issues such as osteomalacia (softening of the bones, in children called rickets), osteopenia (low bone mineral density), or osteoporosis (very low mineral density, when your bones get brittle).  There are other health conditions related to low vitamin D status such as some skin disorders, and possibly metabolic diseases, however further research is needed as indicated by the Institute of Medicine.

TOP TIP # 1 - Vitamin D deficiency                         

There appears to be a lack of consensus between the different international bodies (the Institute of Medicine and the Endocrine Society guidelines) on what the level of Vitamin D deemed as deficient is; the IOM says less than 12 ngs/mL of serum 25 hydroxy-vitamin D, whereas the Endocrine society says less than 20 ngs/mL of 25(OH)D.  Sufficient amounts by Institute of Medicine guidelines are 20 ng/mL, compared to 30 – 60 ng/mL by the Endocrine society.  This then has an effect on some of the literature and research, as the statistics in one country can be interpreted differently if you are referring to a different set of guidelines.

TOP TIP # 2 - How to treat Vitamin D deficiency     

Vitamin D deficiency will be treated with oral supplementation of 50,000 International Units of Vitamin D3 a week for 8 weeks, or 6,000 International Units daily to achieve a blood level of 25(OH)D above 30 ng/mL, followed by maintenance therapy of 1,500 – 2000 International Units /day. Remember to get regular repeat blood tests, at least every 3 months, to check if your levels have increased.  You can also increase your intake of oily fish, mushrooms, eggs and vitamin D fortified products. 

TOP TIP # 3 - Sunshine            

Get some sun exposure every day if possible.  The sun shining on your skin triggers an inactive form of Vitamin D to be metabolized by the liver and kidneys to produce an active form of vitamin D, which goes on to help strengthen your bones and keep you healthy.  Aim to get about 10 – 15 minutes of UVB on your hands and face daily. UVB rays do not pass through glass, so sitting in the sun directly is the best.  In very hot countries or in the peak of summer this may be too much exposure, as you don’t want to burn as this then increases your risk of skin cancer. You can check the UV index in your country with phone apps, they will guide you into how much sun exposure is required day to day depending on the countries weather and by your skin colour. A good guide for some hotter or cooler countries as the sun exposure times may vary a lot.

TOP TIP # 4 - Calcium

Vitamin D is important for bone health and it helps regulate calcium metabolism.  Adequate Vitamin D will help absorb calcium.  Calcium-rich food sources include dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and fortified foods.  The RDI (recommended daily intake) for calcium is 1000 milligrams/day for healthy adults (slightly higher requirements of 1,300 milligrams /day for pregnant women or lactating mothers and post-menopausal women).  Think dairy daily!

TOP TIP # 5 - Exercise             

Regular daily exercise helps to strengthen your bones – this effect will be enhanced by good Vitamin D status from healthy amounts of sun exposure and a good dietary intake of Vitamin D rich foods.  There is some emerging research on Vitamin D and exercise performance, and one of our presentations released this month by Dr. Kirsty Fairbairn discusses Vitamin D – the latest ergogenic aid. Does consuming vitamin D help with sprint performance in rugby players or not?  Check out her latest presentation to find out! So make sure you get out into the lovely sunshine (but not too much!), exercise daily to strengthen your bones, and try to have some Vitamin D (and calcium) rich foods daily.

So make sure you get out into the lovely sunshine (but not too much!), exercise daily to strengthen your bones, and try to have some Vitamin D (and calcium) rich foods daily.

Further reading:

https://nos.org.uk/about-osteoporosis/your-bone-strength/a-balanced-diet-for-bones/vitamin-d/vitamin-d-supplements-and-tests/

Ross, A. C., Manson, J. E., Abrams, S. A., Aloia, J. F., Brannon, P. M., Clinton, S. K., ... & Kovacs, C. S. (2011). The 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D: what dietetics practitioners need to know. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics111(4), 524-527.

Fairbairn, K. A., Ceelen, I. J., Skeaff, C. M., Cameron, C. M., & Perry, T. L. (2017). Vitamin D3 Supplementation Does Not Improve Sprint Performance in Professional Rugby Players: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled Double Blind Intervention Study. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 1-24.

Please email  rachel@megabitenutrition.com for any nutrition topics you would like to learn about.

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