Vitamin D: Why we should be taking a supplement every day

The sunshine vitamin that’s essential for our bones – and why it’s vital to take it every day as we get older.

Vitamin D is often known as the sunshine vitamin and it’s essential to keep our bones strong and healthy. But in the UK just getting outside isn’t enough to get our daily dose.

New research has revealed that more than half of us don’t realise we need to take a supplement every day in winter – and year round once we are over 65 – if we want to avoid Vitamin D deficiency.

To answer your questions, we’ve got the expert advice on why it is so important, why we need to supplement it and how much we need to take.

A clear vitamin capsule being held up to the sunlight between a finger and thumbCredit: Shutterstock / FotoHelin

The benefits of Vitamin D

Why is Vitamin D important?

Saga Exceptional spoke to Paediatric Dietitian Clare Thornton-Wood who explained why Vitamin D is so important, especially as we get older.

She said: “Our ability to synthesise Vitamin D from the sun decreases with age and it is vital for strong, healthy bones as it regulates the absorption of calcium from food. It also plays a role in mood and metabolism. Low levels have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis.

“A Vitamin D deficiency can also result in lethargy, tiredness and bone pain.”

The sources of Vitamin D

Can I get enough from my diet or sunshine?

The NHS says that from late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. Our bodies produce it through exposure to the sun on our skin when outdoors.

Sunscreen can also block absorption, but Thornton-Wood says we shouldn’t ditch those creams as they are important in preventing sun damage and skin cancer.

“Exposure of just 30 minutes a day on the exposed skin of your arms, legs, hands and face should be enough,” she says. “But the further north you travel, the weaker the sun and the less Vitamin D is produced.”

What foods produce Vitamin D?

You can help your intake by adding foods to your diet which are rich in Vitamin D.

  • Mushrooms – especially if you leave them to sunbathe on the windowsill for a while.
  • Red meats and liver.
  • Egg yolks.
  • Fortified yoghurts and breakfast cereals.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, trout, pilchards, herring, kippers.

We should take Vitamin D supplements

Do I need to take a supplement?

Between October and early March all of us need to take a supplement because the sun is not strong enough to produce it in our bodies. Thornton Wood says: “The UK government recommends all people aged over 65 years should take 10ug of Vitamin D all year round.”

She adds that if you have dark skin, are obese, housebound or wear clothing that covers the majority of your body for cultural reasons, you will also need a year-round supplement whatever your age.

New research has shown that 13% of over-65s in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D which can cause bone pain and tiredness.

How much Vitamin D do we need every day?

What is the correct dose?

The recommended dosage according to the NHS website is 10ug /day for adults and children aged over one year, while for babies up to a year old 8.5-10ug/day is ideal.

HSIS nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, said: “We know that vitamin D is essential for bone and muscle health and there is a growing body of evidence pointing to benefits for the gut, cardiometabolic health and respiratory function.

“As a result, we all need to be taking a multivitamin and multimineral with vitamin D or vitamin D supplement daily and all year around with at least 10ug of vitamin D together with ensuring we consume foods containing vitamin D too.”

She warns that potentially you can take too much Vitamin D, so stick to the recommended daily dosage.

Featured product

Boots Vitamin D

RRP: £4

Boots Vitamin D

If you are taking other medication

Some medications, such as weight-loss drugs, can interfere with absorption and drugs such as steroids may lower your Vitamin D levels. It’s best to discuss medication and supplements with your pharmacist or healthcare professional.

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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