There’s a lot of talk about Vitamin D at the moment, linking its role in helping us to stay healthy amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. In this post Keeley Berry, Nutritional Expert at award-winning natural health brand BetterYou answers all the important questions surrounding Vitamin D. Dive right in…
Why is vitamin D so important?
Keeping our bones, muscles and teeth healthy, vitamin D is an essential nutrient that regulates the intake of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, whilst also supporting a naturally effective immune system – helping to protect against infections.
The nutrient works to increase the production of antiviral proteins and also decreases ‘bad’ cytokines, the immune molecules that can cause dangerous inflammation in the body – it is our body’s inflammatory response that can lead to critical conditions, rather than viral infections themselves.
New research published in the Irish Medical Journal also suggests that vitamin D has a vital role to play in the fight against respiratory infections (such as coronavirus), and a further preliminary study on a cohort across 20 European countries has demonstrated a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and high mortality and COVID-19 infection rates.
Does ethnicity affect vitamin D levels?
The amount of vitamin D that is produced by the body from sunlight depends on the time of day, where you live and the colour of your skin.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that those with darker skin, for example those of African, African Caribbean or South Asian backgrounds, consider taking a supplement all year round (even during the summer months) as they may be at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Deficiency is prevalent in people with darker skin due to a natural barrier towards the UVB rays needed to penetrate the skin. This natural barrier comes in the form of melanin.
Melanin is the term used for a group of natural pigments that affect how light or dark your skin colour is, the more melanin you have, the darker your skin colour. This melanin competes with vitamin D in the skin for UVB absorption, meaning that darker skin types allow less UVB to enter the skin and consequently produce less vitamin D.
Add to this, the fact that research indicates Asian ethnicity is associated with reduced intestinal permeability (the intestines’ ability to allow nutrients to pass through the gut), it is clear that ethnicity should be a consideration when addressing vitamin D intake.
How much should I take?
There is no one-size-fits-all and many factors including medical conditions, lifestyle and diet, age, weight and skin colour can affect our ability to absorb this essential nutrient.
Public Health England recently updated its guidance, urging the nation to consider taking a daily supplement for the duration of the ‘stay home’ period, as many people will be exposed to much less sunlight by remaining indoors as we move into the springtime – when we would usually begin rebuilding healthy vitamin D stores.
Public Health England recommends a daily intake of 400IU for everyone, yet there is growing evidence to suggest that some adults would benefit from a daily intake of at least five times this.
The experts at BetterYou recommend a personalised dosage which takes body mass into account; supplementing 1000IU per 25kg of body weight daily and the Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA) recognises 4000IU to be the safe upper limit for daily intake from all dietary sources.
How do I know if I have a deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiencies can present with many symptoms, yet these indications can often be attributed to other illness or lifestyle factors and can therefore go undiagnosed. Symptoms include; catching frequent coughs and colds, bone ache or soreness, muscle stiffness, headaches, fatigue and even low mood.
Severe deficiencies can lead to loss of bone density and deformities, such as rickets in children and bone pain or osteomalacia (softening of the bones) in adults. A lack of vitamin D may contribute to the softening of the bones which can lead to bowing of the legs in children and adults may see an increase in bone fractures.
How can I test my Vitamin D levels?
Approximately one in five people in the UK have low or insufficient vitamin D levels, so the best way to understand your personal vitamin D requirements and begin supplementing effectively is to test your levels.
Whilst visiting your GP to arrange a test may be tricky for the moment, an at-home Vitamin D Test Kit from BetterYou offers a simple and accurate way to ascertain your personal needs.
Which supplements should I take?
For many people, supplementing to maintain optimal levels is essential. However, using traditional methods of supplementation can be challenging – particularly for those with dysphagia, children and people who suffer from malabsorption issues, including; IBS, Chron’s, Colitis and Coeliac disease.
Pill-free supplementation, such as an Oral Spray, provides an effective alternative to traditional tablets and capsules. An oral spray delivers nutrients to the bloodstream via the buccal membrane of the inner cheek, offering a convenient supplementation solution.
A 2019 study conducted by Sheffield University, in conjunction with BetterYou, found oral sprays to be just as effective at elevating levels as traditional capsules. In the trial, of those presenting lower baseline vitamin D status, levels were deemed to be replete after just 21 days of supplementation using BetterYou’s DLux 3000 Oral Spray.
Of the participants that expressed a preference in the delivery method, over 70 per cent said that they preferred the oral spray preparation for its ease of use and better taste, supporting supplementation compliance.
Hopefully you found this post useful and informative. Stay home, stay healthy.