Now that Summer is almost upon us and we are having some glorious sunshine, we can step out, soak up some rays and receive some well needed vitamin D.
After social distancing, mask wearing and frequent hand washing, ultimately your last line of defence is your body’s own immune system. There has been a lot of focus on vitamin D in recent weeks and studies are revealing the part vitamin D has on the immune system and the importance it can play during the pandemic.
Even though it is possible to get enough vitamin D from your diet and exposure to sunlight, it is still reported that 1 in 5 people in the UK have low levels, so perhaps diet and exposure to sunlight is not enough!
We delve into some vitamin D facts and research so you can ensure you are making the right choices to get your required intake.
Benefits of taking vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It also boosts the body’s immune system and helps to protect against viruses and infections.
Which vitamin D is the best one to take?
If you are looking to supplement, there are two main types D2 and D3. D3 is the preferred version as it has been proven to be better absorbed and utilised by the body than vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the one made by our skin when we are exposed to enough sunlight. It is contained in animal products like fish, meat, eggs and dairy. For vegans, it is naturally contained in a fungus called lichen.
How much should I take?
Public Health England (PHE) has recently updated its long-standing advice about vitamin D, stating that everyone should supplement with 10 micrograms daily (equivalent to around 400IU), not just ‘at-risk’ groups.
How does sunlight give me vitamin D?
When sunlight hits our skin, our body produces a substance called cholecalciferol. This is then turned into calcidiol and then calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D) by the liver and kidneys.
If your body makes excess calcidiol during the summer, it will be stored in your body fat as a reserve for when winter rolls on.
So how much sunlight do I need to get my recommended dose of vitamin D?
Studies suggest that midday is the best time to get sunlight, as the sun is at its highest point and its UVB rays are most intense.
A study on PubMed.gov suggests 13 minutes of midday sunlight exposure, on around a third of the area of your skin during summer three times per week is enough to maintain healthy levels among Caucasian adults.
Studies estimate that darker-skinned people may need anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours longer to get sufficient vitamin D. This is a major reason why darker-skinned people have a higher risk of deficiency.
UVB rays are essential for making vitamin D so sunscreen could prevent the skin from producing it. Try going without sunscreen for just the first 10-30 minutes, depending on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight, and apply sunscreen before you start to burn.
Will vitamin D stop me from getting coronavirus?
No. However, recent studies have shown its efficacy in aiding against respiratory infections so a daily supplement could help limit the severity of symptoms if the virus is contracted. Vitamin D is one of the most important supplements you can take, more so during a global pandemic, so ensure you get enough from sunlight and food or consider taking a supplement to top up levels.