For those who may have missed it from their gloomier Winter (northern hemisphere!) calendars, yesterday marked Vitamin D Awareness Day. A proper summer for those of us in the northern climes this year provided ample opportunity to top up levels of vitamin D naturally. However, many people remain dangerously deficient. Just last year it was estimated that almost 1 billion people worldwide lacked sufficient levels of this all-important, essential vitamin.
The benefits of vitamin D are myriad. Research published this year highlighted the need to maintain sufficient levels of circulating serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], the active form of vitamin D. Women with levels higher than 150 nmol/L (60 ng/ml) were found to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, while those with levels above 75 nmol/L (30 ng/ml) had a 27% reduced risk of colorectal cancer. More recently, low vitamin D status in older adults admitted to hospital for acute illnesses has been associated with longer stays, higher rates of falls and mortality vs patients with correct amounts of the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Adults who were more replete with vitamin D were often discharged to go home sooner. And that’s just the tip of the vitamin D benefit iceberg.
As winter starts to take hold in the north, we’re using #ThrowbackThursday to remind you of the importance of maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D for you and your whole family. Alongside ways to maintain adequate levels and protect your vitality during the coming months, vitamin D can also help to offset the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
It’s August and if you’re one of the hordes in the mass exodus to sunnier climes this summer, you’re likely lying on a lounger topping up your vitamin D levels as we write. Alas, those of us who opted for a ‘staycation’ in the UK, are now in need of some vitamin D supplementation given the sun’s ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ appearance. It’s not all about the tan either. The sun is an integral part of our health, vitality and immune resilience because it gives us vitamin D, which, amongst a host of other health benefits, can also modulate our innate and adaptive immune responses. As such, deficiency in vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, as well as an increased susceptibility to infection and chronic disease, let alone denying us its myriad health benefits.
Summer precedes autumn, which heralds winter, which in turn means a greater vulnerability during the cough, cold and flu season. Instead of visiting the local pharmacy and reaching for over-the-counter medicines if you succumb, consider using this time to bolster your immune system and hone your innate resilience. Be mindful that the so-called ‘flu season’ may in fact be largely down to a serious deficiency in vitamin D from lack of exposure to sunlight during a grey and rainy summer or long, dark winter days.