Our grateful thanks to Dr Carrie Rushton for her input to this weeks report which you can hear again on our podcast or further down this page. The support information below is courtesy of NHS Direct
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
Good sources of vitamin D.
From about mid spring to early April to the start of autumn, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.
But as nights draw in and grey days increase we do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Getting vitamin D from food.
In the UK, cows' milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it is not fortified, as it is in some other countries.
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Should I take a vitamin D supplement? Advice for infants and young children.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that:
You can buy vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D (for under 5s) at most pharmacies and supermarkets.
Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.
Should I take a vitamin D supplement? Advice for adults and children over 4 years old.
During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
But since it's difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
People at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Some people will not get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:
What happens if I take too much vitamin D?
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.
This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms (2,000 IU) a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms (1,000 IU) a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you're out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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