The importance of vitamin d
Vitamin D, or the ‘sunshine vitamin’, plays an incredibly important role in keeping us healthy – supporting bone and muscle health, as well as helping the body to absorb calcium, magnesium and phosphate. But as a nation we aren’t getting enough – hardly surprising with our wonderful British weather! Which is why fortified foods are so important. They’re a great way to ensure we get enough Vitamin D in the diet, especially when the sun isn’t shining.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D – also known as calciferol – is important for bone and muscle health, as well as for helping the body absorb calcium, magnesium and phosphate.
Normally, the vitamin – known as the sunshine vitamin – is produced naturally as people spend time outside in late spring and summer and their skin is directly exposed to the sun. But our bodies cannot make enough Vitamin D from sunshine in the autumn, winter and early spring, and additional solutions, such as fortified foods or supplements, are needed to ensure intake levels are sufficiently topped up.
The Vitamin D Disconnect – a special report into awareness of Vitamin D
As a family business, that cares about the health of British consumers, we wanted to better understand the issues around Vitamin D. We commissioned a special report to really understand what consumers know about Vitamin D and what impact our lack of intake could have on the nation.
The report – The Vitamin D Disconnect, which spoke to over 2,000 members of the UK public, 105 healthcare professionals, and was supported by leading academics, argues that the lack of public knowledge is putting 13 million people at risk of vitamin D deficiency, causing the UK to have one of the highest levels of vitamin D deficiency per person in Europe. A fifth of people are just not aware of the Vitamin and its importance in their diet – with 9 in 10 not knowing where they can source it from. Read the news here.
Busting the myths
|Only some people need Vitamin D. Over half (52%) feel that if you eat a balanced diet, you don’t need supplements, while one third (29%) believe it’s only necessary for those with underlying health conditions.||Vitamin D supplements can benefit everyone as outlined in advice by the government and The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). Your need is dependent on your intake of Vitamin D from diet and sunlight.|
|Vitamin D won’t protect you against cold and flu. 43% of people don’t think that Vitamin D can help to fend off cold and flu.||Several scientific studies suggest that sufficient intake of Vitamin D is helpful in fending off illnesses such as cold and flu.|
|You can get Vitamin D through a window Almost half (48%) believe you can get Vitamin D by sitting by a sunny window or conservatory.||You cannot get Vitamin D through glass – the UVB rays that deliver the vitamin don’t penetrate it.|
|You can get Vitamin D from being outside all year round Only 4 in 10 (38%) are aware that you cannot get Vitamin D from the sun all year round in the UK.||You need other sources of Vitamin D between October and April in the UK as it becomes more difficult to get it from direct sunlight.|
|You can never get enough Vitamin D 3 in 10 (31%) feel that you can never have enough Vitamin D.||Very high levels of overconsumption, whilst rare, can lead to headaches, nausea and vomiting, from raised calcium in the blood.|
|The longer you are in the sun, the more Vitamin D you will get Almost two thirds (63%) feel that the more you outside in the sun, the more Vitamin D you will produce.||Sunlight exposure only stimulates Vitamin D production for up to 30 minutes.|
|Sun cream stops you getting Vitamin D 3 in 10 (29%) feel that sun cream stops the production of Vitamin D in the body.||You can still get Vitamin D from the sun if you wear sun cream though the level of intake may be reduced.|
From the experts
Dr Zoe Williams said: “Addressing Vitamin D deficiency in the UK is clearly of importance to the nation’s health so it’s great to see Warburtons raising the issue with this report. It really highlights how much there is to do to increase the public’s knowledge about Vitamin D – just expecting people to buy over the counter supplements is not sufficient action, especially since those most affected are the least likely to be able to do so.
“More focus needs to be put on education, free access to vitamin D supplementation and fortification of foods. These are three very important easily accessible solutions in helping to reduce the deficiency levels in the UK.”
Profession Adrian Martineau, Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London said: “The important role Vitamin D has on our muscles and bones is something that is widely accepted and endorsed by the medical community, yet as this report clearly outlines, there is a significant disconnect when it comes to how much the public know.
‘We must continue the focus on increasing the range of ways we can all source Vitamin D, to make it even easier to incorporate into our diets. As this report points out, the fortification of foods can provide a steady, low-level intake of vitamin D. An approach that has virtually eliminated profound vitamin D deficiency in several countries.”
Vitamin D and COVID-19: A Study
In light of recent research suggesting that vitamin D may have a role in the body’s immune response to Covid-19, Warburtons will also be supporting the CORONAVIT study looking into the link. The CORONAVIT study, led by Professor Adrian Martineau of Queen Mary University who supported The Vitamin D Disconnect, aims to establish whether a ‘test-and-treat’ approach to correct people’s vitamin D deficiency during winter will reduce the risk and/or severity of Covid-19 and other acute respiratory infections. The study is running for over six months and involves more than 5,000 volunteers.