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What are the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements?

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Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that our bodies need to stay strong and healthy. During the spring, summer, and early autumn we can get enough simply by being outside. This is because when sunlight hits the skin, our bodies generate vitamin D.

At other times of the year when we’re not spending time in the sun, we need to add foods rich in vitamin D to our diet and take vitamin D supplements.

How vitamin D works

Vitamin D is vital for maintaining the health of our bones, teeth, and muscles. It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. Vitamin D also has some other important roles, including helping with cell growth and immune function.

If we don’t get enough vitamin D, our bones can become thin and brittle. In children, this can cause rickets. In adults, it can cause a similar condition called osteomalacia.

The benefits of vitamin D supplements

The NHS recommends taking 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D supplements every day between October and early March if you live in the UK.

This is because we don’t tend to get enough sun to generate vitamin D from UV light during these months. Although vitamin D is found in certain foods, it can be hard to get enough through diet alone, which is why supplements are necessary.

If you take the recommend dosage of vitamin D supplements during these months, and during any periods where you’re not getting outside in the sun, your vitamin D will stay at a healthy level.

Who can benefit from vitamin D supplements?

The NHS recommends that everyone should have vitamin D supplements between October and March. However, some groups may benefit from taking them year-round.

Risk factors for low vitamin D include having dark skin, covering your skin when you’re outside, and spending most of your time indoors. You might benefit from taking vitamin D throughout the year if:

  • You’re housebound
  • You live in a care home
  • You cover up most of your skin when you go outside
  • You’re of African, African-Caribbean, or South Asian descent

What are the benefits of vitamin D supplements for women and men?

Vitamin D is beneficial for the human body regardless of your sex. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the NHS recommends taking 10 micrograms (mcg or μg) each day between October and March.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s still safe to take vitamin D supplements as recommended by the NHS. Your baby will also need vitamin D supplements – find out more in our vitamin D for babies guide.

Can I get vitamin D through food?

Vitamin D is found in foods like oily fish, fortified cereals, and egg yolks. Between late autumn and early spring, you can boost your vitamin D by adding more of these foods to your daily diet. Find out more by reading our vitamin D sources guide.

However, the NHS recommends that it’s difficult to get all the vitamin D we need from food alone. This is why it’s important to take supplements too.

What happens when your vitamin D is low?

Vitamin D deficiency in adults

In adults, low vitamin D can cause osteomalacia. The symptoms of this include:

  • Pain in the bones and joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain while exercising
  • Bones that break more easily
  • A change in how you walk
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pins and needles in the hands and feet

You can find out more about osteomalacia at the Arthritis UK website.

Vitamin D deficiency in children

In babies and children, a lack of vitamin D can cause problems with growth and bone deformities. This is why the NHS recommends that all babies and children (under 5 years) have daily vitamin D supplements.

What is the recommended daily dose of vitamin D supplements?

For adults, the recommended dosage of vitamin D is 10 micrograms – this may appear on the label as 10mcg or 10μg. Alternatively, it might appear as 400 IU (this stands for International Units).

The NHS recommends that it’s safe to take a supplement of up to 100 micrograms each day.

For children, the recommended dosage of vitamin D will differ depending on their age:

  • Babies under one need 5 to 10 micrograms (mcg or μg) unless they are having at least 500ml of formula milk each day. This is because formula milk is already fortified with vitamin D.
  • Children aged between one and four should have 10 micrograms (mcg or μg) each day.
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What are the other health benefits of vitamin D?

If you’ve been researching the benefits of vitamin D, you may have found some other claims about its benefits.

Some people believe that vitamin D can fight depression, aid with weight loss, and help fight off infections like the flu. There have also been reports that vitamin D can help reduce your risk of COVID-19. But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D to prevent or treat COVID-19 and the clinical evidence to support the other claims is very limited.

Browse vitamin D supplements from LloydsPharmacy

We stock a range of vitamin D supplements, most of which come in tablet or capsule form. Browse today to find your perfect vitamin D product.