What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is essential for the absorption and uptake of calcium and phosphorus in the human body, which are fundamental for bone health. As well as optimising bone mineral density, vitamin D also supports healthy immune system function and mood regulation.
Vitamin D is found in few founds naturally, although many foods such as breakfast cereals are supplemented with the vitamin. Ultraviolet-B rays from the sun is also another important source of vitamin D, justifying the nickname ‘sunshine’ vitamin. Vitamin D production from the sun in the skin is the predominant source of vitamin D for humans, which is a risk for people who live in locations with limited sunlight. Also, people who have darker skin complexions tend to have lower levels of vitamin D uptake from sunlight, this is due to the melanin in their skin acting as a protection from sunlight and the risks associated with extreme exposure.
Vitamin D in the form of supplements of dietary foods is an easy way to boost intakes. Foods’s rich in
- Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Fortified foods- cereals and bread
Vitamin D intakes: the UK
Data from the NDNS (national diet and nutrition survey) combined from years 2007-2018 revealed that as a nation, the UK failed to consume adequate vitamin D levels. It was found that 16% of adults (19-64 years), 13% of adults aged over 65 and 19% of children aged 11-18 years had low vitamin D status.
Mean dietary intakes of vitamin D fell below the recommended 10 µg a day for all age and sex groups, excluding vitamin D supplementation. Highlighting, that as a nation we fail to consume adequate levels of vitamin D from dietary sources alone.
Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing rickets in children and bone conditions such as osteoporosis in older adults. Research has also suggested that vitamin D consumption can play a big role in the prevention of cancers, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and depression (Sizar et al., 2020).
Recent research has suggested a link between mental health and vitamin D intakes, with adequate intakes of vitamin D contributing to the prevention and treatment for mental illnesses such as depression (Penckofer et al., 2010). Although depression is an independent condition, vitamin D consumption is essential for brain function and development. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that inadequate intakes have been linked to depression and increased risk of mental illness.