Do we all need vitamin D?

Dr Lowe recommends that everyone in the UK takes a daily vitamin D3 supplement of between 1000 and 2000 IU a day.

Why do you need to take Vitamin D?
Research has shown that anyone living in Northern Europe between October and May cannot manufacture sufficient vitamin D because there is a relative lack of the wavelengths of sunlight that stimulate your skin to make vitamin D.

Why can't I just use a tanning bed?
This would be a way of stimulating your skin to manufacture some vitamin D, but it would unfortunately be inefficient UVA from the tanning bed. Tanning beds produce mainly UVA rays and most of the vitamin D is manufactured by UVB (the sun burning rays). You will get UVB on a sunny holiday in the Caribbean for example, but you will also be damaging your skin without looking after it with sunscreens and protective clothing. Dr Lowe's answer is that the simplest approach is to protect your skin from the sun and therefore reduce skin cancers and premature sun induced skin ageing and to take the daily vitamin D3 1000 to 2000 IU per day. This is an excellent way of getting the vitamin D you need.

Why do I need Vitamin D?
There has been some very compelling research over the last few years about the need for, and health giving aspects of, adequate levels of vitamin D. It has been known for many years that vitamin D can stop children getting rickets, and a lack of vitamin D in the growing child causes abnormally brittle bones. This can be completely stopped by making sure your child takes vitamin D supplements. For many years milk was fortified with vitamin D in England and it almost stopped the occurrence of rickets. Unfortunately, those levels of vitamin D supplementation are either now not present or insufficient.

What other reasons are there for taking Vitamin D if I am an adult?
Vitamin D also helps with maintaining strong bones and will help in those people who have a risk of bone thinning, and may decrease the risk of getting bone fractures when you are older. There has been research suggesting that maintaining enough vitamin D level in the body can also reduce your risk of certain cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Cardiologists feel strongly that maintaining normal levels of vitamin D in the body could also reduce risk of heart disease. There are other diseases that may be reduced by adequate vitamin D including the nerve disease, multiple sclerosis. There seems to be little downside in taking vitamin D and at the levels Dr Lowe had suggested the risk of side effects are not seen.

How can I get Vitamin D?
The best way is to buy vitamin D3 capsules from a reputable pharmacist or health store. These can be obtained in 1000 or 2000 IU per capsule and you can take the appropriate number of capsules to get 1000 to 2000 units per day. For people who have relatively low body weight, and for children, Dr Lowe recommends you reduce the levels of vitamin D3 to between 500 and 1000 IU per day. This allows you to get sufficient vitamin D and to make sure you protect skin from the damaging effects of sunlight with adequate sun protection, (see this website on sun protection guidelines).