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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > Jan-18 > How to rise above a minus

How to rise above a minus

Given our climate, it’s not surprising many of us are seriously low in the so-called sunshine vitamin. So what’s the best way to make sure we don’t tip over into full-blown deficiency?

WINTER VITAMIN DEFICIENCY

Nutrition

UNLIKE OTHER VITAMINS, most of our vitamin D comes from the sun rather than from food, hence its rather joyous tag: the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Not so joyous is the fact that one in five of us in the UK is low or deficient in Vitamin D, and this can lead to a host of symptoms (see Telltale signs, right).

‘We get 90% of our vitamin D from exposure to ultraviolet B [UVB] light’, explains GP and HFG expert Dawn Harper. But the Department of Health (DOH) reveals that in the UK the sun’s rays are only strong enough to make vitamin D via exposed skin on our hands, face, arms and legs from April to September.

In winter 30–40% of all age groups in the general population are classed as vitamin D deficient. Even towards the end of summer 13% of adolescents remain deficient.

In winter, working Britons see fewer than 10 hours of daylight a week, according to a recent study from health supplements supplier Healthspan. More than threequarters of respondents said they barely go outside from Monday to Friday, travelling to and from work in the dark. Given this scant exposure, getting enough vitamin D poses a real challenge.

Can’t we store it up?

In theory, we should be able to store up enough Vitamin D in summer to see us through the darker months, as long as our diet also includes enough. Sadly, this isn’t the case, due to a variety of reasons – ranging from a lack of bright sunny days to our use of sunscreen (this protects against harmful UVA rays but also reduces our ability to get vitamin D from UVB light). The DOH now recommends that the only way to be sure of healthy vitamin D status is to take a supplement.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Get your healthy new year off to a great start with our nutrition editor's guide to the best kickstart diets, comfort food made healthier, plant-based recipes plus help on cutting down on alcohol and getting more vitamin D. We've also got remedies for dry winter skin and fitness plans for all ages that really work. Everything you need to start the healthier way you mean to go on!