Is Everybody in the UK Vitamin D Deficient?
It is important that you know how to obtain vitamin D and the consequences of failing to do so. As according to an estimate by the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, as many as 20 per cent of British adults and 15 per cent of British children suffer from vitamin D deficiency. This is probably an extreme underestimate, however, as other countries in the northern hemisphere where detailed studies have been performed are much worse.
The largest American and Canadian studies have found that 32 per cent of the American population and approximately 60 per cent of Canadian adults respectively lacked it. The largest European study was conducted on adolescence alone, and discovered that an alarming 80 per cent of them fell short of the required vitamin D level.
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D3, the form most bioavailable to the body, occurs in only tiny amounts in oily fish and cod liver oil. The most natural way to obtain enough vitamin D is to spend approximately 15 minutes outdoors in direct sunlight between 11 AM and 3 PM every day. Your body then converts the ultraviolet B rays that hit your skin to vitamin D.
There are several reasons why this this is problematic:
1. Most people work indoors or behind glass between 11 AM and 3 PM away from direct sunlight.
2. People who work outdoors wear sunscreen or long sleeves to block ultraviolet rays away from their skin.
3. During the winter, the UK simply does not have enough sunlight, and especially not enough ultraviolet B rays that are only present when there are no clouds. UVA rays are the weakest waves, but because they are also the longest, they almost always reach us. UVB rays are stronger waves, and especially needed to produce vitamin D, but because they are shorter, clouds can block them.
4. If you live in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, or any other large city, the smog in the atmosphere can prevent UVB rays from reaching you.
5. If you are dark skinned, your dense skin pigmentation blocks some UVB rays.
6. Your body can store vitamin D for no longer than 30 days.
Because of all these difficulties, it is unsurprising that high numbers of British people are vitamin D deficient.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
The danger of vitamin D deficiency is that it has few detectable signs and symptoms. You cannot tell whether you have sufficient vitamin D by focusing on how you feel. It is usually diagnosed only when you develop one of the serious diseases that result from it.
Vitamin D and Bone Health
Your body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium. If you absorb no calcium, your bones cannot develop. Vitamin D is, accordingly, one of the chief nutrients for healthy bones.
Rickets is a bone disease that most developed countries wiped out in the Victorian era. However, as superficial search of the British media reveals that doctors at several hospitals now see at least one rickets case per month. Rickets manifests in soft and deformed bones. Kids who suffer from it normally have legs that curve outward at the knees and backs that are bowed.
The adult version is called osteomalacia, and adults also develop bent backs and deformed limbs. Short of osteomalacia, adults who lack vitamin D normally develop osteopenia or osteoporosis, two bone diseases that cause bones to become soft, brittle, and prone to fractures.
Vitamin D and Other Diseases
Vitamin D is believed to play a role in inhibiting your body's inflammatory responses. Inflammation is behind many forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other diseases that have become so common in the 21st century.
As summarised in this article in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Researchers have directly linked vitamin D deficiency with many forms of cancer, including brain and pancreatic cancer that are particularly deadly. It causes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D deficiency also increases your risk of developing flu, tuberculosis, asthma, respiratory tract infections, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, death from heart attack and stroke, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and brain disorders and psychological diseases like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, depression, impaired memory, and behaviour modification.
As if all these aren't bad enough, if you are pregnant, it increases your chance of pre-eclampsia, caesarean section, and giving birth to an underweight or underdeveloped baby.
Testing Your Vitamin D Level
To avoid all these horrors, you should test whether there is enough vitamin D circulating in your bloodstream, and supplement with vitamin D if there is not.
A Vitamin D test is called a hydroxy25 or a 25(OH)D blood test. It tests the amount of 25(OH)D in your blood. The result is given in nmol/L (nanomole per litre). The easiest way is to ask your doctor to do such a test. Since many doctors do not yet prioritise vitamin D deficiency as a major health problem, and since your private health insurance may not pay for a test you request, the cheaper option is to order a test kit online.
City Assays is the best-known British organisation that sells online kits and collaborates with an NHS laboratory to obtain your results. They send you a blade, a paper strip on which to collect a drop of blood, and an envelope in which to return it, following their instruction sheet to the letter.
Interpreting the Results of a Vitamin D Test
If you are currently taking no vitamin D supplement, you are likely to receive a score somewhere between 20 and 90 nmol/L of 25(OH)D. Remember that Americans test vitamin D in ng/ml (nanograms per millilitre), so if your Internet research makes no sense, you can divide your nmol/L score by 2.496 to get your ng/ml score, or or multiply a ng/ml score by 2.496 to get your nmol/L score.
Most studies show that you need a minimum of 75 nmol/L to avoid the consequences of vitamin D deficiency. After taking plenty of research into account, the Vitamin D Council decided to recommend that you should aim for 115 nmol/L, as this is the amount that people with plenty of natural sun exposure obtain. This translates to a recommended daily vitamin D intake of approximately 5,000 IU (international units) or 125 mcg (micrograms).
At this stage, the recommendations by governmental organisations are far below this; in fact, up to 10 times lower. The British Department of Health does not make any recommendation for the population as a whole, but it does recommend that at-risk groups like pregnant women, the elderly, and dark skinned individuals take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU), which is almost certainly much too low.
How to Obtain Sufficient Vitamin D
If you work in direct sunlight during the day, your intake is probably high enough during the summer. During the winter, however, the only way is to take a vitamin D supplement, such as Vibrant Health's certified organic vitamin D tablets sold by Water for Health. Available in a convenient 4,000 IU per tablet strength, with other products such as Uno Cardio 1000, Green Vibrance powder and Coral Complex also containing vitamin D. Supplementing vitamin D is also vitally important if you do not get outside between 11 and 3pm to access the sun's UVB vitamin D making rays.
Written by Amy Morris who is a natural nutritionist, on behalf of Water for Health, who aim to support all on their journey to wellness with quality supplements, green foods and alkaline water products.
Seventh Wave Supplements have been the UK's 100% natural and additive free brand of health supplements for ten years. They are passionate about helping people feel better naturally. www.seventhwaveuk.com