Vitamin D - dont leave deficiency to guesswork


Why are so many people deficient in vitamin D? And what can be done about it?


Helen Marsden

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Vitamin D is rarely out of the news nowadays and most people know that the "sunshine vitamin" is essential for good health. It helps our bodies absorb calcium, is thought to protect us from a host of diseases from cancer to multiple sclerosis, as well as supporting our nervous and immune systems. But despite its newsworthy status, the vast majority of people who buy a Vitamin D blood test from Medichecks report insufficient or deficient Vitamin D.

So why is this?

Vitamin D is created in our bodies by the action of sunlight on our skin. Although some foods contain small amounts of Vitamin D, eating oily fish or fortified fats isn't enough to get Vitamin D levels to optimum levels. To have an impact on Vitamin D creation the sun's rays need to be as direct as possible. If you lived close to the equator you would have ample opportunity for Vitamin D creation.

However, the further north you go, the weaker those rays become, losing their impact to create Vitamin D in our skins. This is thought to be why Northern Europeans are fair skinned - it is an adaptation to allow them to absorb more Vitamin D in areas of the world where the sun's rays are less powerful. A light skinned person can create sufficient Vitamin D after 15 minutes in the sun, whereas a dark skinned person might need to spend an hour or more. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to get the Vitamin D you need if you stay in the sun for half the time it would normally take you to get lightly pink/tanned. So if you know that you would start turning pink after half an hour of sunshine, you need to get about 15 minutes of sunshine for Vitamin D creation.

However, no matter how pale your skin, the chances are that in a British winter, unless you've jetted off for some winter sun, the likelihood is that you will, like the majority of our customers, have insufficient levels of Vitamin D. And if you are dark skinned and live in the UK, your chances of sufficient Vitamin D are even worse. Another way of getting Vitamin D in the winter months is to take supplements, but even when our clients report taking Vitamin D supplements, many of them still don't reach the desired levels in their blood. This is because many brands of Vitamin D, especially in a general multi-vitamin, don't contain enough Vitamin D to get to optimum levels.

Our advice for optimum Vitamin D is to take the guesswork out and start with a blood test. If you haven't been supplementing then it could provide the incentive you need to start, and if you are supplementing then it will tell you whether you are getting enough. Then we advise you to retest after a few weeks to see whether the supplement you are taking is strong enough or whether you need to adjust the dose.

With our affordable and convenient home-to-lab Vitamin D blood test, managing your Vitamin D has never been easier.

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