The power of Vitamin D – By Victoria Tipper
This week nutritionist Victoria Tipper is talking about Vitamin D deficiency. Not something you would associate with sunny Dubai, but every year more and more people are being affected. We asked Victoria to take us through her tips and advice to getting your fill of Vitamin D.
How can vitamin D deficiency affect me?
Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be a risk factor for many diseases, with studies now finding links with increased rates of multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis and several types of cancers. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency has never been so high, particularly amongst high risk groups which include children, the elderly and people with darker skin.
Can what I eat prevent Vitamin D deficiency?
Some foods do contain Vitamin D such as oily fish, eggs and certain mushrooms but they do so in such small amounts that it would be near impossible to obtain the recommended daily intake from food alone; so we need alternative sources. The best way to boost vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight or by supplementation.
How can I get more Vitamin D into my body?
Thankfully, the sun shines most days in the UAE and so you would imagine most people wouldn’t be lacking. Unfortunately, the use of sunscreen reduces our body’s ability to produce vitamin D. People with darker skin will also find it more difficult to meet their daily requirements, as higher amounts of melanin in the skin reduce absorption of ultraviolet B rays which is responsible for vitamin D production. A good general rule to ensure your body manufactures enough vitamin D from sunlight is to spend half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink outdoors, so darker skins would need to more time in the sunshine. It also helps to expose a larger surface area of your skin, so tanning your entire back rather than just the hands and face.
Do be careful not to overexpose skin to sunlight, tanning and burning does of course increase risk of skin cancer. It is also important to have enough dietary cholesterol, after all cholesterol is the basis of vitamin D! Boosting foods like eggs or using coconut oil is a good start.
Not everyone can spend adequate time in the sun and for many the deficiency may be so severe that the only option is supplementation to top up those vitamin D reserves.
How much is enough?
So how much vitamin D do we need each day? You will get a different answer depending upon which organization you ask, for example the Food and Nutrition board suggest adults get 600IU a day but the Vitamin D Council suggest up to 5000IU a day. Many feel that some recommended daily intakes are out of date and that higher amounts of vitamin D are required to support immunity, disease protection and bone health. There is a lot of ongoing research to help confirm such theories. The best way to know what your specific requirements are is to check your individual vitamin D status, this can be done through a blood test and then you can supplement accordingly.
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