It's estimated that up to 50% of the population is vitamin D deficient and because vitamin D is our sunshine vitamin, meaning it's formed in our skin upon exposure to UVB radiation reacting with cholesterol, if you cover up (with clothing or sunscreens) and don't get enough sun exposure, chances are you're in the deficient category, too!
Vitamin D is not only crucial for mineral metabolism, bone health and muscle function; low vitamin D levels are also implicated in several diseases such as: autoimmune disease, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, cancers, neurological disease, respiratory disease, and also mental health conditions.
Unfortunately, dietary sources do not supply adequate vitamin D and if you're one of the population groups at most risk of deficiency, then supplementation is required.
People at most risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
- Older or disabled people in low-level and high-level residential care particularly: housebound, community-dwelling geriatric patients admitted to hospital
- Dark-skinned people
- Those who wear modest dress due to religious reasons
- People with a disability or chronic disease (eg, multiple sclerosis)
- Fair-skinned people and those at risk of skin cancer who avoid sun exposure
- Obese people
- People working in an enclosed environment, such as office workers, factory or warehouse workers, taxi drivers, night-shift workers etc.
How much vitamin D should you take?
Supplementing with 1000 IU per day is usually adequate to maintain decent serum vitamin D levels in most, healthy individuals. Vitamin D supplements typically come in 1000 IU doses per capsule, and also in liquid drop or spray versions.
There are certain conditions which require higher dosages of supplementation, as well as situations such as genetic abnormalities which affect absorption and utilisation of vitamin D. Therefore, if in doubt, it's best to speak with a health professional, to have your levels tested and supplemented accordingly.
Slip, slop, slap..... and take a vitamin D!
In short, if we avoid sun exposure, whether it's because we are protecting our skin by covering up, or work and spend the majority of our day indoors, you are unable to make enough vitamin D and chances are, you could find yourself deficient in this important nutrient.
In practice, I find the vast majority of my patients who are tested are either deficient(levels <50 nmol/L) or nowhere near the ideal range of 100-150 nmol/L.
Taking a vitamin D supplement is safe and effective in most cases to top-up your levels, and given the multiple health implications related to its deficiency, vitamin D supplementation should be a priority for almost everyone.