Healthspan November 16, 2017

Barely a week goes by without vitamin D headlining the papers. But why? 

90% of vitamin D is made by the body on exposure to UVB sunlight. But the UV index in the UK in winter is below 3 and in order for your skin to react with sunlight to create vitamin D the UV index has to be higher than 3.

The facts

1. We’re not getting enough vitamin D

The average Western diet supplies 3mcg of vitamin D per day. Public Health England (PHE) now recommends all adults and children aged one and over need 10mcg of vitamin D per day. This along with the problem of a low UV index in winter is a recipe for failure.

2. Vitamin D is proven to cut the risk of colds and flu

Respiratory infections – things like flu, pneumonia and bronchitis are a huge problem in the UK with near to 70% of Brits getting a respiratory infection every year. Catching a lurgy from your co-worker or your kids is almost inevitable – especially when you remember a tiny drop containing the flu virus can survive for up to 24hours.

Respiratory infections are responsible for 300,000 hospitalisations and 38,000 deaths per year in the UK and a whopping estimated 2.65 million deaths worldwide were caused by them in 2013.

But a study by the British Medical Journal using researchers from Queen Mary shows a daily or weekly intake of vitamin D supplements could mean 3.25 million fewer people in the UK would suffer from a respiratory infection every year.

3. There are vitamin D foods out there, but not very many

There’s not many foods high in vitamin D – as you’ll soon see - but we’ve teamed up with Healthspan Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson to bring to you some delicious recipes including a sweet potato fish pie, mackerel kedgeree and mushroom and feta frittata, that will help you top up your daily intake.

Foods high in vitamin D:

  1. Oily fish: Cod liver oil, salmon (click here for a free sweet potato fish pie video recipe), mackerel (click here for a free mackerel kedgeree video recipe), tuna, sardines
  2. Raw milk
  3. Eggs (click here for a free mushroom and feta frittata video recipe)
  4. Mushrooms
  5. Fortified foods: butter, margarine

Countries globally – especially in Northern Europe where sunlight hours in the winter are very low – are succumbing to the benefits of fortifying foods with vitamin D. For us Brits lacking in vitamin D (precisely one in five people aged 19 to 64, one in six aged 65 and over, and children aged 11 to 18 in 2016), though, a supplement is recommended.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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