The Sunshine Vitamin

The sun is shining and suddenly life feels a little easier.  The school and nursery run doesn’t seem such a chore as the kids run and scoot happily in the warm sunshine.  Thoughts drift to picnics in the park, trips to the seaside and splashing in the paddling pool.   With sunshine comes Vitamin D.  We all need Vit-D but are we getting enough?

Vit-D can only be made when the UV light is strong enough.  This is only possible in the UK from April until September in the middle of the day (10 – 3pm) on exposed skin (hands, face, arms or legs).  You only need 15 minutes, two to three times a week during these months to get your Vit-D for the whole year but is this realistic? 

With sun we immediately slap on sunscreen, pull out the sunhats, sunglasses and cover up.  The risk of melanoma is very real.  All these factors will prevent you making enough Vit-D.  There is also the rather important issue that the sun is not very predictable.

So what about food sources?  There are only a few foods that are naturally rich in Vit-D including oily fish and eggs.  Some foods are fortified such as breakfast cereals and margarines.  The problem is that children would need to eat 8 eggs or 26 tablespoons fortified breakfast cereal every day to meet their requirement, which I think you’d agree is not a practical solution!

So what can you do?  UK Health Departments recommend all children from 1 – 5 years take a vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C and D.  Breastfed babies should be supplemented from 6 months (or from one month if the mother did not take a Vit-D supplement in pregnancy).  Infants fed 500ml or more formula a day do not need supplements as formula milk is already fortified.  All pregnant and breastfeeding women need a Vit-D supplement.

Requirements for babies and children up to 5yrs: 7 – 8.5mcg/day

Requirements for pregnant and breastfeeding women: 10mcg/day

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For more information ask your midwife or health visitor or look at the NHS Choices website.