As many as 1 in 5 people in the UK are thought to be deficient of Vitamin D and might not even realise.

The underrated vitamin contributes to the healthy function of the immune system. It not only reduces the risk of diabetes, but protects against heart disease, strokes and respiratory infections.

Low vitamin D levels (serum levels below 25nmol/L) are associated with a higher risk of falls and musculoskeletal health problems such as rickets, osteomalacia (a disease characterised by the softening of the bones) and poor muscle strength.

Subtle symptoms are often confused with other causes and a simple blood test can help identify if you have optimum levels or not.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), a committee of independent experts that advise the government on matters relating to diet, nutrition and health, recommends all people aged 4 years and above require 10 µg/day of vitamin D.

Advice given on the NHS website states: “People who have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency are being advised to take a supplement all year round.

“SACN’s review concluded that these at-risk groups include people whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, like those in care homes, or people who cover their skin when they are outside.”

“People with dark skin, from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer. They should consider taking a supplement all year round as well.”

Milk, egg yolk, tuna, sardine, mackerel, salmon, curd and cottage cheese are all good sources of vitamin D.

However, vegetarians may find it difficult to get Vitamin D from their diet and are advised to expose their arms and legs to sunshine for at least 15 minutes between 10am and 1pm.

Further reading

Vitamin D and health report (PDF, 4.2Mb)

SACN, 2016