Do we need Vitamin D supplements all year round?
Staying healthy is important – and that means we need to do things like eat right and stay fit. Diet and exercise are major factors in keeping your health in good shape, but sometimes you need a little help in that area in the form of supplements.
One popular supplement is vitamin D, as many people in modern life simply don’t get enough vitamin D during their daily activities. Most people think that you only need to take vitamin D supplements during the winter, but the truth is that you can benefit from a good vitamin D supplement all year long. Here’s what you need to know about what vitamin D is, what it does for you, and why you need it all the time and not just during the winter months.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body needs for a whole slew of very important processes. The most crucial role that vitamin D plays in your body is that it helps you absorb calcium, which strengthens your skeletal system. We can get vitamin D through our diet by eating foods rich in this nutrient, but we can also absorb vitamin D through our skin when we’re exposed to sunlight.
Lack of vitamin D can lead to many bone disorders like rickets and osteoporosis, but new research has shown that not having enough vitamin D might also have a negative effect on brain health as well.
Vitamin D deficiency in the UK
Many people living in the United Kingdom have lower levels of vitamin D. This is only natural, considering the climate and weather of the UK. We have more than our fair share of rainy weather, and that means that there are fewer opportunities to enjoy sunny weather. This goes double for the dreary winter months.
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent all over the globe, though, and not just here in the UK. Much of the reason behind this is that modern life requires many of us to work indoors in office settings, and this limits our vitamin D exposure even more. Vitamin D deficiency also tends to get worse in areas of the world at higher latitudes where there is very little sunlight during the winter months (such as the UK).
Vitamin D and the sun
As mentioned above, our primary source of vitamin D is directly from the sun. When sunlight strikes our exposed skin for a certain amount of time, it triggers the human body into synthesizing the vitamin D we need to stay healthy.
This process is something that just about every other living thing on the planet can do as well. Plants synthesize a type of vitamin D known as vitamin D2; meanwhile, animals (including humans) synthesize a type of vitamin D known as D3. They’re almost identical, and our bodies can process both vitamin D2 and D3. We do, however, do a better job at processing vitamin D3 than D2.
Do we need to supplement all year round?
Taking vitamin D supplements in the winter is always a great idea, as the days are short and the nights are long. This means that the meagre sunlight we get during the colder months is almost certainly not enough for your body to make enough vitamin D – especially here in the UK. If you lived closer to the equator, however, you would get more sunlight even during the winter, and your need for vitamin D supplements would be less.
Because we do live at such a relatively high latitude, the amount of sunlight we get in the summer months would certainly be sufficient for us to not have to supplement all year round. But with the typical British weather, and the propensity we have to work, live, and play increasingly inside, it becomes a much better idea to take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.
Choosing a good vitamin D supplement
There are loads of vitamin D supplements on the market today, and it’s important to choose one that will work most effectively. Check the labels of any supplement before you buy it – if your vitamin D supplement comes from plant-based sources, that means it contains vitamin D2. This form of vitamin D is about half as effective as a supplement that contains vitamin D3, which means you would have to take double the dose to get the same effect.
As always, never begin a nutritional supplement regime before first speaking to an expert. Too much vitamin D can be just as bad as not enough, so never exceed the recommended daily doses on your vitamin D supplement, and always ask your GP for advice on whether a vitamin D supplement is right for you.