Thanks to the various efforts of health body’s, eminent research and lots of mainstream media attention the importance of Vitamin D has been dramatically raised in recent months. It’s called the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ and vital in sufficient doses for us all – but particularly pregnant women, children and the elderly.
In this article we are going to review the role of the vitamin and why it is so important for us all. And we are going to look at more recent and exciting research that indicates a range of health and nutritional roles that Vitamin D may play a role in supporting.
Vitamin D is most commonly associated with assisting with the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, helping support the functions of the immune system and contributing toward normal muscle functions. In fact the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) permitted health claims are:
- Vitamin D contributes to the normal absorption /utilisation of calcium and phosphorus
- Vitamin D contributes to normal blood calcium levels
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal teeth
- Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Vitamin D has a role in the process of cell division
- Vitamin D is needed for normal growth and development of bone in children
Below are three items of recent research into Vitamin D; with in each case a link to the full article:
Crohn’s Disease “A new study has found that Vitamin D, readily available in supplements or cod liver oil, can counter the effects of the inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s disease. Our data suggests, for the first time, that Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn’s disease,” says Dr. White, a professor in McGill’s Department of Physiology, noting that people from northern countries, which receive less sunlight that is necessary for the fabrication of Vitamin D by the human body, are particularly vulnerable to Crohn’s disease”.
Link to Science Daily article
Asthma “The amount of time asthma patients spend soaking up the sun may have an impact on the illness, researchers have suggested. A team at King’s College London said low levels of vitamin D, which is made by the body in sunlight, was linked to a worsening of symptoms. Its latest research shows the vitamin calms an over-active part of the immune system in asthma. However, treating patients with vitamin D has not yet been tested.”
Link to article on BBC News
Heart Disease & Diabetics “Low levels of vitamin D may be responsible for the increased risk of heart disease among diabetic people developing clogged up arteries, according to new research. The study – published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports that diabetic people who receive good levels of vitamin D are less likely to develop atherosclerotic plaques that clog up blood vessels, while people with low levels of the sunshine vitamin are at higher risk of developing clogged up blood vessels.”
Link to Nutra Ingredients article
UK Government Advice on Vitamin D
In December 2012 the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health expressed concerns about vitamin D deficiency in UK children leading to a range of ailments including a worrying rise in rickets cases. This followed on from advice earlier in 2012 from the chief medical officer for England recommending that all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children aged six months to five-years-old, people aged 65 years and over and people not exposed to much sun should also take daily vitamin D supplements.
Children and pregnant and breast-feeding women all need extra vitamin D because it is a vitamin required for growth.
Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is mostly made in our skin by exposure to sunlight. Hence Vitamin D is termed ‘the sunshine vitamin’ and to put it bluntly – no sunshine, not enough Vitamin D and this is one of the causes reported on widespread Vitamin D deficiency in Scotland. As we age our body does not convert vitamin D from sunlight as easily; hence government advice on vitamin D supplements for the over-65s too.
Most of the foods we eat contain very little vitamin D, though more recently some makes of processed foods are fortified with added vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form of this nutrient and far preferable to Vitamin D2 to supplement with. There is ongoing debate on what levels of Vitamin D to supplement with – recent studies suggest higher levels than the current UK RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) are optimally beneficial.
For those interested we previously wrote an in depth article on: Vitamin D and Children .
If you have any questions regarding Vitamin D or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time. I can also put you in touch with a nutritional practitioner in your area.