For people who may be short of vitamin D – and studies have shown that a high proportion in the UK will be short in winter – the evidence in favour of increasing intake is ever stronger.
A recent study, for example, connects Vitamin D to a better ability to walk in older people. A Boston-based research team suggests that this is not only because of Vitamin D’s long recognised effect of reducing bone loss and thus fracture risk, but because it may also be improving muscle strength and function. Surveying 4,100 people aged 60 to 90 showed that those who had higher Vitamin D body levels walked faster and were quicker in standing up. After allowing for activity level, age, race and calcium intake, the benefit remained.
Such large studies add weight to the suggestion recently published that Vitamin D is so important that some sun exposure without sun blocks is beneficial despite the risks of too much. Dr M.F. Holick pointed out that having enough Vitamin D is linked not only to lower risk of bone loss and fractures, but also of rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, and some cancers.
Dr Holick suggests 5-10 minutes of exposure of arms and legs, or hands, arms and face, two to three times a week. We can store some of this summer Vitamin D for winter, but by early new year, typical levels are below adequate.
UK latitude means that sunlight from October to March, while beneficial for mood and perhaps other reasons, supplies no Vitamin D – making regular herring or similar fish consumption, a break in the sun, or supplements all common sense measures.
First Published in 2005
Click here for LINKS to manufacturers of nutrition and food supplements.
Top of page