’29 percent of adults have low levels of vitamin D between January and March every year and are consequently risking deficiency, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. For 11–18-year-olds, this jumps to 37 percent. Given the nutrient’s vital role in keeping muscles, bones and teeth healthy, what would deficiency mean for you and can you prevent it by taking supplements?
Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because the body creates it from direct sunlight, vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods. It’s pretty much impossible to get the recommended 10 micrograms a day from the sun between October and March, so the NHS recommends everyone over the age of five considers taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D during these months. They add that children under five and people at risk of deficiency should take a daily supplement year-round.
Vitamin D helps control the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Research suggests a link between very low levels of vitamin D and rickets in children and the bone condition osteomalacia in adults. More recently scientists have started investigating its role in other areas of health. Research is limited, but studies suggest a link between adequate vitamin D levels and prevention of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, a reduction in acute respiratory tract infectionsand a lower risk of some cancers. And the British Nutrition Foundation is calling for young, healthy people in the UK to be aware of the risks associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency are most commonly bone aches and pains and muscle weakness. Kay Niknam, from Bristol, explains what happened when she started to experience joint pain.’