Vitamin D the benefits
A high proportion of people living in the UK- approximately 65%- don’t get enough vitamin D. You may be one of these people, but not be aware of it. It is a problem because it can affect your energy levels and wellbeing now, and make a great difference to your health in the future.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is often called the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, because your body makes it when you spend time in the sun. Until recently, scientists thought that it was used by our body to grow healthy bones and teeth. They were not wrong, but what we are now increasingly understanding is that it is used by a high number of other organs in the body too. This means that vitamin D can have an even more significant impact on your health.
Why might I not be getting enough vitamin D?
Research has shown that a high number of people in the UK- and a number of other countries- are vitamin D insufficient or deficient (don't get enough) for a number of reasons:
- our weather means that you do not get enough sunshine throughout the year- and sometimes even in the summer- to generate the level of vitamin D needed
- the colour of your skin will determine how efficiently your body is able to generate vitamin D once exposed to the sun. The darker your complexion, the more time your body needs to be exposed to generate the same levels of vitamin D as a paler person.
- older age and excess body weight can also make your body slower to produce enough vitamin D.
- your lifestyle. Many of us do not spend enough time outdoors thanks to work, distractions indoors and other demands on our time
- it can be very difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet to compensate for this lack of sunshine. Unlike other vitamins, mushrooms are the only foods found in the fruit and vegetable section that provide vitamin D, and they alone are not enough.
- geography. The further north you live, the less vitamin D you are likely to be getting.
Can getting enough vitamin D stop me from getting cancer?
We believe it can make a big difference. A recent study showed that women with sufficient levels of vitamin D were 77% less likely to develop breast cancer. Not getting enough vitamin D has also been linked to MS, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and a range of other cancers and diseases.
How do I get more vitamin D?
There are a few simple things you can do:
• Be sure to get more sunshine. Don’t burn, but do spend time outdoors and expose your skin to the sun when you can... some scientists even believe that sunbathing topless can help women to fight off breast cancer more effectively.
• Eat more oily fish- such as salmon and mackerel- and up the number of mushrooms you eat.
• Take a daily supplement. Current recommended daily allowances in the UK do not reflect the new understanding we have that vitamin D is needed by a number of organs, as well as to keep our teeth and bones healthy. So, we recommend that you take 2,000 IU (International Units) every day if you are healthy, and 5,000 IU if you are living with cancer.