Vitamin D - the Holy Grail of Vitamins?

We are nearing the shortest day of the year. Around this time some start to crave sunshine and then symptoms of feeling tired all the time, aches and winter blues may set in. 

Some of these symptoms can be attributed to low circulating levels of Vitamin D, of which 90% is gained through exposure to sunshine and 10% can be absorbed from dietary sources. 

In Equatorial areas of the globe a fair skinned person exposing face and arms to the sun at noon for 30 minutes may synthesize about 2,000 IU of Vitamin D in the skin, although these days ironically we advise avoiding the midday sun due to risk of skin damage and cancer. 

Unfortunately in Northern climes (above the latitude of Newbury in the UK) the wavelength of sunlight is inadequate year round and deficient in winter, leaving many at risk of vitamin D insufficiency and causing consequent symptoms or complications if deficiency is left untreated. 

Groups most at risk of deficiency include: children and over 65s, people with a family history of Vitamin D deficiency, individuals with dark skin, individuals with obesity, chronic disease or in pregnancy and breastfeeding, vegetarians, competing athletes, people who work long hours indoors or who are routinely covering the face and body.

Vitamin D is an important component for many body systems and is especially important for bone health. In the past low vitamin D caused Ricketts and bone thinning and deformity in the poor and malnourished. Chronic disease or excess inflammation in the body tends to predispose to low vitamin D states; infection uses up stores of the vitamin which need to be replaced. Hence in times gone by a Sun-Bath was deemed good treatment for those with TB or chronic disease. 

Sufficient levels of this key vitamin are thought to be linked to maintenance of a healthy immune system and research studies have proven links between deficient vitamin D levels and Breast Bowel prostate and Lung Cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, coronary heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Similar associations have been found with Tuberculosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia, Pre-eclampsia and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

As the at risk groups are so broad and we are in winter, you may find great benefits to your health by supplementing your vitamin D input. Short of jetting off for some much needed winter sun, you may wish to increase dietary intake of oily fish or cod liver oil, although more attainable are vitamin D supplements taken orally which boost stores and can provide the daily input required for optimum health. Severe deficiency states are shown by serum vitamin D3 levels below 25; insufficiency is from 25-50 and optimum function can be achieved with levels over 75. Recent studies indicate that at least 50% of UK individuals are insufficient with severe deficiency more common in the North.

The only way to know you're low is a quick blood test which can guide supplementation regimes and with doses ranging from 400 to 40,000IU daily, it is helpful to know how much you need to take for how long. 

Many previous vitamin D deficient individuals are surprised to find rapid increases in energy levels increase and fatigue melting away on the correct regime - this leads to a quick story from the 2012 Olympics. British athletes were looking for the edge in their performance and the clinical team found that on testing many were low on Vitamin D (thought to be depleted due to repetitive muscle repair); once supplemented to an adequate level performance data significantly improved in those competitors who had been deficient and the team went on to achieve a record haul of medals. 

So across the board this winter it is worth considering a vitamin D test and supplements as you are unlikely to be exposed to adequate UVB sunlight of the correct intensity - especially if you are in a risk group as mentioned. 

If you feel tired all the time, have unexplained aches and pains or recurrent infections or are in a risk group why not come in for a blood test and consultation, which can help achieve optimum wellbeing and performance?