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Northern Trust dieticians offer advice on Vitamin D supplements for everyone

Dieticians from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust are reminding everyone today that they should begin taking a Vitamin D supplement now as we head into darker evenings.

In the UK, all adults and children over the age of 1 are advised by the NHS to take a daily 10mcg Vitamin D supplement from late September - April.

Sunshine, not food, is where most of your vitamin D comes from. So even a healthy, well balanced diet, that provides all the other vitamins and goodness you need, is unlikely to provide enough vitamin D.

You make vitamin D under your skin when you are outside in daylight, which is the reason vitamin D is sometimes called the 'sunshine vitamin'. A vitamin is something that helps our body function - a 'nutrient' - that we cannot make in our body. Vitamin D is different because even though we call it a vitamin, it is actually a hormone and we can make it in our body.

Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Vitamin D is also important in protecting muscle strength and preventing rickets, osteomalacia and falls. Even if you have a calcium-rich diet (for example from eating plenty of low-fat dairy foods and green leafy vegetables), without enough vitamin D you cannot absorb the calcium into your bones and cells where it is needed.

Vitamin D may have other important roles in the body, but there isn't enough evidence at the moment to make any conclusions.

Groups at risk of low vitamin D

• babies and young children, and children and adolescents who spend little time playing outside pregnant and breastfeeding people

• people over 65 years old because their skin is not as good at making vitamin D

• people with darker skin tones -people of Asian, African, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent - living in the UK or other northern climates

• if you always cover most of your skin when you are outside

• the further north you live, the less sufficiently strong sunlight there is for you to make vitamin D

• anyone who spends very little time outside during the summer - the housebound, shop or office workers, night shift workers

• if the air is quite polluted

According to the Association of UK Dieticians those in the at-risk groups, as above, should consider taking a supplement

containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D

all year round.

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