Vitamin D has long been promoted for its use in supporting healthy bones and teeth through its regulations of the bodies calcium and phosphate levels. For years we have been advised to supplement our children under one year with Vitamin D, and since October of 2020 that has been extended to children up to four years at a dose of 5microgram per day. However the role of Vitamin D extends beyond the realms of bone and dental health, and a focus into its functions relating to immune health have been extensively discussed over recent months. This is due to considerable evidence that Vitamin D deficiency can have a big impact on COVID-19 severity. This applies to all ages groups, but particularly to those who are obese, have darker skin, or are older. Vitamin D has a role in regulating the inflammatory response of the body to COVID-19. An excessive inflammatory response can result in ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome’ associated with ventilation and death.
Don’t we get enough from the sun or our diets?
In Ireland, Vitamin D deficiency is common amongst children and adults alike. There are many reasons which contribute to this, such as our poor weather, our latitude and our diets. Our food is not generally fortified with Vitamin D like some other countries. There are calls for a recommendation to be put in place for all adults to supplement with 800-1000iu (20-25mcg) of Vitamin D per day. Those who are likely to be severely depleted should discuss higher doses with their doctor. People more at risk or severe deficiency include those who suffer from Celiac disease, crohns disease, milk allergy and cystic fibrosis.
It is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food, oily fish is the only substantial dietary source, while there are only modest amounts in eggs, mushrooms and liver. The main source we have of Vitamin D is from the sun, and even during the height of summer in Ireland you may not be out during the peak times of 10am to 3pm in it enough to produce adequate levels. Things like pollution and clothes etc can block UVB coming through from the sun – and it is worth noting that the Ozone layer absorbs 95% of UVB directed at earth from the sun!
All in all it is fairly clear that Vitamin D supplementation is prudent. Vitamin D is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Who shouldn’t take Vitamin D?
- People who suffer from renal failure or kidney stones
- People with excessively high calcium levels (hypercalcaemia).
- People with significant heart disease should discuss it wit their doctor first.
- People on diuretics, digoxin or calcium or phosphate supplements should discuss it with their doctor first.
Vitamin D should probably have gotten a lot more attention before COVID-19 for its many benefits to our health, especially considering that even with the best diet and intentions we are very unlikely to ever get adequate levels through a healthy lifestyle! Low levels of vitamin D can even contribute to the development of certain conditions such as diabetes! I think COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on this affordable and easily accessible vitamin and it is certainly one I feel we should all be supplementing with until the pandemic ends at minimum.
Lots of multivitamins contain Vitamin D so have a read of the back of the box to ensure you are getting 20-25mcg (which is 800-1000iu) per day. For Children under four years of age 5mcg is recommended.
If you do not take a multivitamin the Beeline range of Vitamin D is very reasonably priced: