The main role of Vitamin D in the body is to help absorb calcium from foods, therefore maintaining strong bones and teeth. We know that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men in Ireland develop osteoporosis (weak bones) and low Vitamin D levels are a contributing factor. Vitamin D is not only essential for healthy bones, the latest research shows it may protect against heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is made in our bodies when sunlight falls on our skin and 10-15 minutes exposure a few times per week is sufficient for this to occur. According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), many people don’t make enough vitamin D due to our northerly latitude, the lack of sunshine in Ireland (particularly of recent years!) and frequent use of sun block to safely prevent skin cancers. One study found a seasonal effect; 4% of Irish women aged 23-50 years were vitamin D deficient during the summer, however the figure escaladed to 35% during winter months.
Vitamin D is found in a limited number of foods. Oily type fish are the best sources e.g. salmon, mackerel and trout. The FSAI recommend eating oily fish 1-2 times per week and consuming these types of fish twice per week provide us with half of the weekly vitamin D needs. Other sources include eggs, breakfast cereals with added vitamin D, liver and fortified milk.
If you do not regularly consume the above mentioned foods, the FSAI encourage a vitamin D supplement providing 5 micro grammes of “D3” daily. A little word of caution; avoid “double up” as many other food supplements provide vitamin D also e.g. multi vitamin products, fish oils and Omega 3 fat supplements.