Thursday 17 October 2019

Dear Dr Nina: Where should we get our vitamin D?

The best source of Vitamin D is from the sun.
The best source of Vitamin D is from the sun.

Nina Byrnes

Q As a family, we are vigilant about wearing a high sun protection factor in summer. How can we also ensure that we are getting enough vitamin D?

Dr Nina replies: We all know that a healthy, balanced diet should provide all the nutrition that we need, but in the case of vitamin D, this isn't necessarily true. Vitamin D is found in fish oils, eggs and meats, but even in these foods it is hard to absorb. Our main source of useful vitamin D comes in the form of UV exposure from sunlight. For those living in northern latitudes (such as ourselves), covering their skin for medical or religious reasons, or with darker complexions, it may be impossible to keep levels up.

A lack of sun exposure from October through April means that without supplementation, your vitamin D levels are at their lowest in early March. When we do get sunshine, we apply strong sun protection. An SPF over eight blocks the skin's ability to absorb vitamin D.

Fortified food does play a role. Here in Ireland, milk fortified with vitamin D is available but it's not the norm. Many cereal companies are now also starting to fortify their products with vitamin D. The easiest way is to take a daily vitamin D supplement, especially in winter.

Small amounts of sun exposure during summer months may boost vitamin D. This exposure should occur outside the peak hours of 10am to 4pm. About 15 minutes on 25pc of the skin will give a decent boost. However, for those with extremely fair skin, less time may be appropriate.

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