During the warmer months it is generally quite easy to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from the sunlight. However, in the colder months this isn't always the case. For those who live in colder climates all year round, or for those who live in places that do not get a lot of sunlight, then it can be difficult to hit the vitamin D quota. It therefore becomes more important that dietary sources are included.
This essential vitamin isn't found in a large number of foods. The best dietary sources of vitamin D are:
- Oily fish
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
It is also possible to purchase products that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice.
Calcium and Phosphate
One of the main roles of vitamin D is to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. This is important because calcium and phosphate are both required in order to keep the muscles, teeth, and bones healthy and functional.
When a lack of vitamin D presents in children, a condition known as rickets can develop. Rickets is characterised by soft, weak bones and stunted growth. Skeletal deformities can also develop and cause additional problems. This condition is most likely to present between the ages of 6 and 36 months, so it is extra important to pay attention to your child's vitamin D consumption during this time. Due to the fortification of foods in the United States, this condition is not very common anymore.
When a lack of vitamin D presents in adults, a condition known as osteomalacia can develop. This condition is often confused with osteoporosis, but is in fact an entirely separate health issue.
Osteoporosis is a weakening of existing bone, largely due to hormonal chanes, whereas osteomalacia is concerned with the bone building and formation process.
If your body isn't absorbing an adequate amount of vitamin D then you will be unable to use available stores of calcium and phosphate effectively. The lack of vitamin D, combined with the inability to efficently use calcium and phosphate, can cause ongoing problems and health conditions.
It has been suggested by experts that the amount of vitamin D required by a person is generally the same regardless of age and gender. However there are some variations to the guidelines in regards to this.
Babies up to the age of one year old should aim to consume between 8.5 micrograms and 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day. Once they are past the age of one, children should then aim to get 10 micrograms a day. This amount of 10 micrograms a day is also the recommended amount for children, teenagers, and adults.
If a baby is being breastfed from birth then it is advisable that they also receive a vitamin D supplement to make sure that they get the right amount. If you are feeding your baby with formula then you do not have to be concerned with supplementing your babies diet. This is because formula is generally already fortified with vitamin D.
If you do not often go outside of your home, due to a health condition or any other reason, then you may need to take a vitamin D supplement, even if you are getting this vitamin from dietary sources.
Too Much Vitamin D
When you take vitamins supplementally then you may be concerned about the possibility of taking too much.
When it comes to vitamin D, this is something that you should pay attention to. If you consistently take too much vitamin D over an extended period of time, then there is a chance that calcium could build up in your body. This is not only bad news for the health of your heart and kidneys, but could also cause damage to your bones over time.
If you have children under the age of 10 years old, then it is suggested that you ensure they do not consume more than 50 micrograms of vitamin D each day. This is generally quite difficult to do by accident, unless the diet is rich in meat and eggs. If your child is under a year old, then no more than 25 micrograms should be consumed each day.
As an adult, it is a good idea to keep your vitamin D consumption under 100 micrograms a day, although again, it would be quite difficult to consume more than this unless you were taking too many supplements.
The amount of vitamin D that it is safe to consume will also vary from person to person, and certain medical conditions can have an impact on this number. Aim to always eat a varied and balanced diet that priortises healthy, fresh, whole foods, and you will be well on your way to eating for optimum health!