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Do you need to take a vitamin D supplement?

Do you need to take a vitamin D supplement?

You might have heard lately about Vitamin D and why it’s important for some of us to take it. But did you know why?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D (also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’) is one of the few vitamins our bodies can produce itself. Between April and October, our bodies make vitamin D through direct sunlight on our skin. However, many factors will impact our body’s ability to create vitamin D, such as the use of sunscreen (which reduces the risk of skin cancer), our clothing choices and the amount of time we spend indoors. As Irish winters are not very sunny, our skin cannot produce enough vitamin D and so we must get the sunshine vitamin from elsewhere.

Can you get vitamin D from food?

Some foods are rich in Vitamin D, including:

  • Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and herring
  • Red meat
  • Organ meats such as liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods such as some fat spreads, milk, and breakfast cereals

Who needs to take a vitamin D supplement?

Certain groups in society are at higher risk of not getting enough Vitamin D.

  • Irish adults aged 65 years and older do not get sufficient vitamin D from direct sunlight or from their diet.
  • People with darker complexions have a lower ability to make vitamin D and are at a higher risk of deficiency. 
  • Babies who are breastfed or who are taking less than 300mls or 10 fluid ounces of infant formula per day need a daily supplement. 
  • Young children aged between 1 and 4 should be given 5 micrograms of vitamin D every day from Halloween (31 October) to St Patrick’s Day (17 March).

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D helps us to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, which are needed for strong healthy bones and to maintain healthy muscle mass. Not only that, evidence shows that vitamin D also supports the normal functioning of our immune system. A lack of vitamin D can increase the risk of osteoporosis over time, causing our bones to weaken and become brittle and increasing the risk of fractures and breakages. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to various health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some inflammatory disorders, certain cancers, and higher mortality.

What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?

  • Adults aged 65 and older: 15 micrograms (15µg). This can be taken as a multivitamin, a calcium and vitamin D supplement, or a vitamin D-only supplelement. If you have been prescribed a vitamin D supplement at a dose higher than 15 micrograms from a healthcare professional, you should continue to take the supplement at the prescribed dose. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are unsure.
  • Young children: 5 micrograms of vitamin D every day from Halloween (31 October) to St Patrick’s Day (17 March).
  • Babies:  From birth to 12 months, babies need a supplement providing 5 micrograms of vitamin D3 every day if they are breastfed or taking less than 300mls or 10 fluid oz (ounces) of infant formula a day.

Is there such thing as too much vitamin D?

It is possible to have too much of the sunshine vitamin. Excessive intakes are usually due to consuming large doses of vitamin D supplements. Taking too much over a long period of time can weaken the bones, kidney, and heart due to a build-up of calcium in the body. Unless advised by your healthcare professional, you should not exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.

Where can I buy a vitamin D supplement?

Vitamin D supplements can be bought in your local pharmacy or supermarket and do not require a prescription. 

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