Vitamin D hit the news again this week with new draft guidance suggesting we all need to take a vitamin D supplement. But would we take a pill? Here Tara Whyand, oncology dietitian and ProfBiotics Nutrition Advisor explains all you need to know...
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D can be consumed or made by the body if exposed to strong enough sunlight. It has a variety of functions in the body but a large proportion of Brits will be vitamin D deficient without even knowing it. For example if you don't take supplements, don't eat oily fish, certain types of mushroom and egg yolks, fortified products and don't get year round sun exposure you will be at risk of deficiency.
What can happen if I am deficient?
- Osteoporosis and rickets
- Lowered Immunity
- Poor muscle function
- Poor cardiovascular function
- Poor respiratory system
- Poor brain development
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Some Cancers
Researchers have found that there is a link between vitamin D and colorectal cancer. Patients with colorectal cancer tend to have lower levels of vitamin D than people who don't have this cancer and are exposed to less sunshine. People who have high levels of vitamin D in their body are less likely to develop colorectal cancer. Patients with higher vitamin D levels who already have colorectal cancer are more likely to have better outcomes and are less likely to die from this cancer.
Vitamin D deficiency also looks to be a risk factor for developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is also a risk factor for developing colorectal cancer. This is because inflammation is often a trigger for initial cancer pathways. You are more likely to develop IBD if you are far away from the strong sunlight of the equator. Patients with this disease and vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop colorectal cancer and have regular flare-ups of inflammation.
Studies have shown that there is also a link between vitamin D and breast cancer. Women who have breast cancer tend to have low levels of vitamin D in their body. Women with higher vitamin D levels are up to 45% less likely to develop breast cancer. In addition, studies have shown that women with least sun exposure have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Larger studies have shown significant risk reductions with taking vitamin D supplements at doses of >400 IU or >1100 IU per day. Women with higher vitamin D levels who already have breast cancer tend to have smaller tumours and are less likely to die from the disease.
As vitamin D deficiency may be related to wide a range of cancers and other health conditions, it is advisable that both women and men should try to maintain normal levels in their blood
It is possible to meet your needs through diet and supplements alone unless you are exposed to all year round sunshine, every single year.
Eat vitamin D rich foods regularly:
Oily fish such as trout and salmon, beef liver, certain types of mushroom, egg yolks, fortified margarines, milks, cereals and juices are good sources.
Take a vitamin D containing Supplement:
The new draft from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition guidelines suggest that everyone should take 10 micrograms as a supplement every day, that's 400IU of vitamin D. It is possible to overdose and people should not exceed around 10,000 IU per day.
ProfBiotics Bowel (£29.50) and ProfBiotics Breast (£35) formulas contain 1000IU of vitamin D3 to support the wellbeing of these organs. Both are available from profbiotics.com or by calling 020 7193 8838.
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