Low Vitamin D - Should you worry?

II  JAN 4 2017

Kerry Stott

Vitamin D is stored in the fat deposits around our body. We naturally generate the substance through our skin during the summer time, cumulating reserves which see us through the winter months where we are exposed to less light. Our bodies will naturally stop synthesising Vitamin D when we have enough in reserve, but all too often high risk groups may lack this essential substance.

For many years Vitamin D was thought to help with our bones and teeth, combining with calcium to help strengthen them.  as well as joint and muscle pains. It is now been discovered that Vitamin D as an action in the prevention of diabetes as well as with colon, breast and prostate cancer.  It is clear that adequate intake has health benefits.

Who is at risk of low Vitamin D?

Who is at risk of low Vitamin D intake? The usual groups really; infants, elderly, pregnant women. However, the interesting bit is also people who wear long garments, people who have undergone gastric bypass operations or who are obese, people with dark skin, teenagers, and people who spend a lot of time indoors.   As a nation we are not getting outside enough, we spend too much time inside on the computer, less time outside being active. This problem could worsen in an increasingly sedentary and keyboard driven world.

It would appear that the further you live from the equator the more likely that Vitamin D or Vitamin D deficiency will play a role in many areas of your health

The reasons for this are multiple, reduced sun exposure, reduced synthesis of the vitamin and inability to break down fats can work alone or together. By understanding the problem, we can ether take steps to maximise production or supplement.

You can get Vitamin D from your diet by way of oily fish, red meat, green leafy vegetables. From September to April we should be taking some form of supplements (from when the clocks go back to when the clocks go forward) of 800-1000 IU (international units) per day for optimal health.

Can I take too much?

Overdose is only usually seen when too much is taken orally, which can lead to a high level of blood calcium known as hypercalcaemia.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal and joint pain, low mood and an increased risk of bladder stones. Very high levels can cause heart rhythm dysfunction and twitching of muscles. If you are concerned about overuse of any medication, seek professional opinion.

Any opinions above are the author's alone and may not represent those of the NHS or Mind and Medicine. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.
Martin, T. and Campbell, R. (2011). Vitamin D and Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum. 24(2) Pp 113-118. Available from: http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/2/113
National Institute of Health (2016). Vitamin D. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
LaFee, S. (2016). Higher levels of vitamin D correspond to lower levels of cancer risk, researchers say. UC San Diego Health. Available from: https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2016-04-06-low-vitamin-d-higher-cancer-risk.aspx
NHS Choices. (2016). The new guidelines on Vitamin D – what you need to know. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2016/07July/Pages/The-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-D-what-you-need-to-know.aspx