Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by osteomalacia in adults.
Between April and September most of us can get the vitamin D we need through the action of the sun on our skin. Between October and March, we need to get vitamin D from diet because the sun isn’t strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
Maintaining Vitamin D levels from October to March – advice for everybody
It is difficult to get all the vitamin D we need from food.
The easiest way to maintain your vitamin D levels is to take a supplement.
On the Isle of Man, over half of us will have low levels of vitamin D during Autumn and Winter so we should all consider taking a supplement. Vitamin D supplements can be bought cheaply at most pharmacies and supermarkets. There is no need to visit your doctor or have a blood test to check vitamin D levels before you start taking a supplement, unless you are concerned about symptoms or pre-existing medical conditions.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods, including:
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna
- Red meat
- Egg yokes
- Fortified foods such as fat spreads and some cereals
Manx milk is not fortified with vitamin D, as it is in some other countries.
How much vitamin D do I need?
It’s recommended that everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D during autumn and winter.
You should not take more than 100mcg of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11-17 years.
Children aged 1-10 years shouldn’t have more than 50mcg a day.
Infants under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25 mcg a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take a much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor. If your doctor has recommended you to take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
For more information, see NHS Choices - Vitamin D
Supplements for people at risk of low vitamin D throughout the year
Some people won’t get enough vitamin D even during Spring and Summer because they have inadequate sun exposure. This includes:
- People who stay mainly indoors – for example the frail or housebound
- People in institutions such as care homes
- People who usually wear clothes covering most of their skin when outdoors
People with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean or South Asian backgrounds may not make enough vitamin D from the levels of sunlight we get here.
People in these groups should consider taking a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.
Vitamin D supplementation and testing on the NHS
Vitamin D supplements are cheaply and readily available at pharmacies and supermarkets across the island. People who choose to take a supplement in line with the advice above should purchase this for themselves – supplements are not available on NHS prescription. A blood test to check vitamin D levels is not required before starting a supplement in line with the above guidance and testing will not be offered on the NHS.
The Vitamin D policy issued by DHSC Clinical Commissioning is currently under review – December 2018.