COLUMN: Top up your vitamin levels to boost bones
Now the dark winter days are behind us we can start to look forward to some warmer, sunnier days.
Sunshine not only lifts our spirits and boosts our mood but it is also good for our health.
That’s because it helps us produce Vitamin D. This is a vital vitamin that is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
It also helps you to absorb calcium. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your diet, for example through milk and dairy products and green leafy vegetables you cannot absorb it properly if you do not have vitamin D.
It’s thought that one in five people have low levels of vitamin D and it can be difficult to diagnose a deficiency as often there are no symptoms.
In recent years there has been an increase in rickets in the UK due to vitamin D deficiencies.
Rickets can cause bone pain, poor growth and deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs and curvature of the spine.
Children with rickets are more likely to fracture their bones. Rickets was very common but has mostly disappeared in the western world after foods such as cereal and margarine were fortified with vitamin D.
Food contains limited vitamin D but there are some foods that are good sources. They include oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, kippers and mackerel, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and some milk powder.
The sun’s ultra-violet rays allow vitamin D to be made in the body but it is only at the right strength between March and October in the UK.
Ten to fifteen minutes exposure to the sun (before applying sunscreen) two or three times a week will make enough vitamin D for the body to use and store through the winter but be sure not to spend too much time in the sunlight without adequate sun protection.
Some people are advised to take a vitamin D supplement. They include babies and young children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, people over 65 years of age, people with darker skin tones and housebound people or people who spend little time outdoors.
Be sure to check what the right dosage should be for you. If in doubt check with a health professional.