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As nights draw in and the days become colder and darker, it is not uncommon to feel the ‘autumnal blues’ or worse S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). More and more research is being carried out on vitamin D and its benefits. Recent studies consider that Vitamin D deficiency may be a possible cause for S.A.D.

What is Vitamin D?

When ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin they trigger vitamin D synthesis, hence its nickname ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but one of the oldest prohormones (A substance that can be converted to a hormone), having been produced by life forms for over 750 million years. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and most animals that are exposed to sunlight have the capacity to make vitamin D.

In humans, vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, beginning with development in the womb and continuing throughout life.

Other current research being done on Vitamin D is showing that a deficiency in this vitamin may also play a role in cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting and birth defects.  Vitamin D is also an anti-inflammatory hormone and good for treating irritable-bowel problems and arthritis.  Research studies are also showing that Vitamin D is vital in the treatment of insulin resistance conditions such as diabetes, some forms of high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, and heart disease.

Sources of Vitamin D3

Vitamin D comes in two forms D2 & D3. The best way to get your vitamin D3 is by getting natural sunlight, although the British weather can make this difficult as our ‘summer’ this year proved and most of us are going into winter without having topped up our D3 levels. Supplementing your diet with 2000 IU vitamin D during darker winter months may benefit as food sources of vitamin D are limited. Vegetarians and Vegans are most at risk with sources being found in cod liver oil, egg yolks, butter, liver and oily fish. Out of all veg and fruit, dark leafy vegetables and mushrooms are of most benefit.

Earlier this year, The Department of Health gave this advice on supplementing with Vitamin D.


The following groups of people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency:


  • All pregnant and breastfeeding women, especially teenagers and young women.


  • Infants and young children under 5 years of age.


  • Older people aged 65 years and over.


  • People who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined   indoors for long periods.


  • People who have darker skin, for example people of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because their bodies are not able to make as much vitamin D.



Written by  Sarah Allenby-Byrne


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