Vitamin D is vital for good health, growth and strong bones. A lack of this important vitamin is common, particularly in Ireland, as it is made in the skin by exposure to the sun - something we don't have a lot of here!
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means that it can be stored in our body for future use. The main action of vitamin D is to help absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus, which is essential for bone structure and strength. Vitamin D is made in our skin following exposure to sunlight. The required sunlight has to fall on bare skin for 20 to 30 minutes. Two to three exposures of sunlight per week from April to September is enough to achieve healthy amounts of the vitamin in our bodies. Foods containing vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolk and fortified foods, such as certain margarines, cereals and infant formula.
Vitamin D deficiency
People at most risk of being deficient in Vitamin D include the following
Symptoms are often nonspecific or vague:
A diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency is based on thorough medical history including patient symptoms and examination. A simple blood test will be performed and this will then confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment of vitamin D deficiency supplementation with a form of vitamin D called ergocalciferol or calciferol. These products need to be taken daily for 12 months in order to allow the body to catch up on reduced levels. After the deficiency has been treated, the body's stores of vitamin D need to be maintained with further supplementation. Those treated for vitamin D deficiency will need to be reviewed a few weeks or months after starting treatment. A further review after one year is advised.
As mentioned, various groups of people are prone to developing vitamin D deficiency and are therefore advised to take vitamin D supplements. This includes: