'Essential' to supplement with vitamin D in winter – but careful with dosage, warn experts

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Vitamin D is a chemical the human body makes from sunlight during the summer. During the winter, though, our body can’t produce enough from the sun. As a result, the NHS recommends that people take vitamin D supplements in order to bolster their immune system during the cold and flu season. While supplementation can be effective, experts warn this can have consequences; Express.co.uk spoke to two experts about what can happen.

Ross Austen, MOJU’s Research and Nutrition Lead, told Express.co.uk: “For those living in the UK it is essential that we supplement with Vitamin D especially during the winter months as from October through to May the intensity of the sunlight is not strong enough to naturally produce Vitamin D from the sun. As a result we solely rely on our diet and supplementation to ensure we stay healthy.”

On vitamin D overdoses Austen warned: “It is quite rare but potentially serious to take too much Vitamin D. Over consumption, would lead to a calcium build-up which could damage the heart, kidneys and blood vessels.”

Whilst this sounds unnerving, Austen added: “However, you would need to take extremely large doses to achieve this.”

As to how the right dosage can be achieved, Austen said: “Consumers are encouraged to supplement with products. Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining and supporting many aspects of human health including bone health, muscle function, and immune health.”

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The risks of taking too much vitamin D are reflected by doctor Paula Oliveira who highlighted how too much vitamin D can affect the body in a number of ways.

Dr Oliveira said: “Taking too much vitamin D can make the body lose its ability to delete excess calcium. As a result, you might develop hypercalcemia, which promotes digestive issues (nausea, stomach pain, vomiting or constipation), tiredness, loss of appetite, dehydration and kidney problems (kidney stones, kidney injury or kidney failure).”

Furthermore, it’s not just a case of one dosage fits all; depending on your size, gender, and age will depend on how much vitamin D is needed.

On this Dr Oliveira said: “Children below 12 months should take 400IU or 10mcg of vitamin D a day. Children between 1 to 13 years should take 600 UI or 15mcg of vitamin D.”

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Meanwhile, for slightly older children and young adults, Dr Oliveira said: “For young adults (14 to 18 years), I recommend 600UI or 15mcg of the “sunshine” vitamin per day.

“This dose can also work for adults (19 to 70 years) and those pregnant or breastfeeding. For people aged 71 years and older, I strongly advise you to take 800UI or 20mcg of vitamin D daily.”

The guidance suggested by both Oliveira and Austen is reflected by the NHS. On what can happen if too much vitamin D is taken they warned: “Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia).

“This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart. If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.”

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Furthermore, they added: “Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.

“Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms (2,000 IU) a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms (1,000 IU) a day.”

The NHS said there can be some exceptions such as: “Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much.

“If in doubt, you should consult your doctor. If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.”

Can you overdose on vitamin D through sunlight?

No, it is impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sunlight. The NHS confirmed: “You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.”

As a result, while it is impossible to overdose from vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, it is still possible to be harmed by the sun in other ways.

While the winter means heat related conditions are unlikely to be a problem, it shows the potency of sunshine both in natural and supplement form.



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