Stay young with vitamin D

by Lynn Cardy on Friday, 25 September 2009

Once, vitamin D was simply calcium's bone-building sidekick, but now research reveals that just about everything in our body relies on its input. Experts are urging us to hype up our intake in a big way. Why? Low levels of vitamin D can leave you open to all kinds of health problems. Want to help kill the aches, fight fatigue, lift your mood and immunity? Try the sunshine vit!

Where did our vitamin D go?
We make vitamin D via sunlight on the skin, but longer indoor working hours and grey weather can mean we're just not getting enough. To keep levels up, you need 15 minutes of sunlight on your body each day, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that most of us are probably deficient, which might explain why we often feel whacked.

What's the right vitamin D dose?
Around 90 per cent of vitamin D comes from the sun; the rest from food, but only if you're a fan of oily fish and eggs. A supplement is key, but what dose?

Paul Chamberlain, Solgar Vitamins technical director, says: "If you're eating plenty of oily fish and dark green veg, you could get away with 600ius a day. But most of us aren't, so take it up to 1,000iu if you're not getting much sunlight; 2,000iu if you don't get out in the sun at all."

Can we overdose? "In the past, experts thought it might cause problems," says Chamberlain, "but we now know that you can go up to 10,000ius without problems." But with D, more doesn't necessarily mean better. A cumulative approach is a good idea.

Are you vitamin D-deficient?
You may have muscle aches, feel tired or simply not up to par. Most of us put up with it - you don't know how bad you're feeling until you feel better - but if you're experiencing all the above, especially in winter, a vitamin D dip could be to blame.

James E Dowd MD, author of The Vitamin D Cure, reckons we can turn things around if we increase our levels. Simply start taking vitamin D and see how you feel in six to eight weeks. Need a reality check? Answer these questions, taken from Dowd's quiz to assess your need for vitamin D.

Is your Body Mass Index (BMI) 30 or more? (Go to nhs.uk to check yours.)

Do you have fatigue or recurring muscle, bone or joint pain?

Are you 50 years old or over?

Do you rarely spend time outdoors between 11am and 4pm?

If you answered yes to two or more, your levels may be low and in need of a top up.

Find vitamin D here...
Not your 1,000ius of vitamin D a day, but these are some of the best food sources:

Salmon, cooked    100g    360iu

Mackerel    100g    360iu

Tuna in oil     75g    105iu

Egg    one    20iu


Boost your defences with vitamin D

How does vitamin D help women like us?

Bone health: A high-level supplement with added minerals such as calcium, selenium, magnesium and chromium can help support bone health during the menopause.

Brain Power: "It seems to have a detoxing effect on brain cells, giving them a ‘spring clean'," says Chamberlain.

Immunity: D modulates the immune system, helping fight bacteria and viruses.

Cancers: Vitamin D is thought to inhibit cell proliferation, especially in breast cells. B Obesity: "As you gain weight, levels of vitamin D drop," says James Dowd. "Adequate vitamin D and calcium may decrease the production of fat."

Great little buys
Solgar Ultimate Bone Support combines 1,000iu D with essential bone-building minerals, good for that trying menopause time. £18.09 for 120 tablets. Call 01442-890355 for stockists.
Life Extension Vitamin D3 1,000iu, £16.95 for 250 capsules, from victoriahealth.com.  
The Vitamin D Cure by James E Dowd MD (John Wiley & Sons, £9.99), is a five-step programme to help alleviate all kinds of health problems. Visit thevitamindcure.com.

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