Thank you to Eileen from Italy for commenting on my last (winging) post, and suggesting that I might be vitamin D deficient, as this could well be a major factor in season affective disorder (SAD). I don’t actually think I suffer from SAD – I was just having a low mood day, and these are rare; however, I started to look into vitamin D and came up with some interesting stuff I thought I’d share.
What is vitamin D for?
Vitamin D is used by the body to absorb phosphorous and calcium from food, and we use calcium and phosphorous to make healthy bone. In children a lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets and in adults it can cause osteomalacia, a softening of the bones leading to pain and tenderness in bone and muscles. It has also been suggested, as Eileen mentioned, that it could be a contributing factor to SAD.
Where does vitamin D come from?
We create vitamin D using direct sunlight on our skin – hmm, there’s been a bit of a lack of that round here lately!
Vitamin D doesn’t just come from sunshine though. You can also find it in oily fish (which includes mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, herring and anchovies and tuna but not tinned tuna apparently, as the canning process alters its content of oil.) Hmm … I really like salmon and sardines but hardly ever eat them. I eat a fair bit of tinned tuna, but that doesn’t help!
So where else could I get it from? Eggs – nope, very rarely eat eggs. (Perhaps that’s something to do with being a Penguin?) Spreads that have been fortified – erm, nope, hardly ever use spread on anything. Some fortified breakfast cerials – YES! So I checked out my cerials – a 30g portion gives you 25% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Hmm, well I’m trying to lose weight, so I try to have a bit less than 30g so I’m not even getting that 25%.
Anyway, according to this NHS article it’s hard to get it from food alone, and there definitely has been a lack of sun over the last year!
Who’s at risk
Apparently, according to the NHS and Department of Health a number of people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency in the UK and according to this report in The Telegraph vitamin D deficiency is becoming a very significant problem in children.
Adults at risk, and who should probably take supplements, are: “pregnant and breastfeeding women, especially teenagers and young women; people aged 65 years and over;
- people who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods;
- people who have darker skin, for example people of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because their bodies are not able to make as much vitamin D.” Well I don’t fall into any of those categories in theory, but I’ve been virtually house or office-bound for the last few months due to various flares combined with appalling weather! Also there are a number of studies, including this one suggesting that obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency. Well, I’m not obese but I’m certainly overweight and the study I’ve just linked to shows that deficiency increases in proportion to BMI increase. So … it’s not looking to good for me right now!
What to do?
It is possible to get a blood test to see what the vitamin D levels are doing, but frankly I really doubt that my cash-strapped GPs would be interested in doing one! I could pay for one – or I could just think ‘Hey, this makes sense’ and take a supplement. I’ve opted for the latter.
A word of warning about supplements
Hubby and I popped down to the chemist yesterday and had a look at the vast range of supplements available. I was really shocked to discover that even the lowest doses of vitamin D supplement were way, way higher than the RDA. This is probably because, as sensibly suggested by hubby, they’re meant as a boost for people who have really low vitamin D, but since I don’t know where I am level-wise I thought taking the lowest does of vitamin D only supplement, which was 250% of the RDA, still seemed dodgy. So I’ve settled for multivitamins. Even they contain 10o% of RDA of various things including D, but I thought OK, if I’m getting a bit more than 100% it probably doesn’t matter – but 250, 500, 1000% – just seemed a bit crazy.
The danger of a vitamin D ‘overdose’
Vitamin D is not an example of ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing!’ If you have much too much then you can absorb too much calcium, and that can lead to it being deposited in places you really don’t want it – like the kidneys. Excess of vitamin D can also cause calcium to be removed from the bones (don’t ask me why!), which again is not something one wants!
Feeling tons better today – I doubt that relates to two-days-worth of multivitamins (because I don’t think they’ll have kicked in yet), but I suspect it could have a lot to do with two days of sunshine, some warmth in the air, a couple of walks (the first proper walks of the year) and some gardening!