Brit's vitamin D levels reach dangerously low in winter and autumn months
Vitamin D, also known as 'the sunshine vitamin', is good for us in so many ways. Unlike other nutrients it is not provided by the food we eat, but the exposure we have to the sun. It is required for the absorption of calcium and promotes healthy bones, teeth and muscle growth, as well as supporting our immune system. Recent studies have also shown that vitamin D protects against colds.
Despite the undeniable benefits of Vitamin D, new research by Vega Vitamins has found that only 19% of people have been tested for their Vitamin D levels in the past and of those tested over two thirds (64%) had noticeably low numbers.
In addition to this, 66% of parents and children do not take vitamin D tablets and 78% were not aware that the government recommends that everybody (including babies and children) should take a vitamin D supplement every day.
A mix of environmental, lifestyle and nutrition habits as well as confusion over how best to manage sun exposure have all led to these reduced vitamin D levels within the UK population.
Our primary source of vitamin D is bright sunshine on the skin (face, arms and neck). However, in the UK it's impossible to get the required amount of sunshine in the autumn and winter months, to enable the skin to make adequate vitamin D levels.
We can get some vitamin D from a healthy diet, but not the amount required each day. The Department of Health issued new guidelines in 2016 which said that everyone, without exception, needs to supplement their vitamin D intake, especially during the colder, darker autumn and winter months when most of us spend most of our time indoors.
And some key population groups are at risk all year round, such as those with darker skin, people who always cover up outdoors, elderly people in care or those who don't go out very often, babies and young children – and people who spend most of their lives in an urban environment.
60% of people living in urban areas have inadequate vitamin D levels in the winter. 16% of people in London have inadequate levels all year round as UVB rays are blocked by cloud cover or pollution and never reach us.
Office workers and most indoor occupations reduce your time to be outdoors. A recent survey showed that 15% of workers spend no time outside in a nature-like environment during the working week and only 30% take a proper lunch-break. People on nightshifts often sleep at the key time of day when the sun can help your vitamin D levels.