With much of the UK facing tough lockdown measures for the second time around, millions of people are being forced to spend most of the day indoors. Whilst in March, more time could be spent enjoying natural sunlight and fresh air, a winter lockdown makes this much more troublesome. In ‘normal’ times, it’s been found that in the UK, between the months of October to March, it isn’t possible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone. Now, spending even more time indoors with no morning work commute and a lack of social interaction, inevitably, most Brits are lacking vitamin D more than ever before.
Why is this a problem? Well, vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, teeth and muscles in both children and adults – a lack of this can lead to bone deformity illness (rickets) in children, and bone weakness (osteomalacia) in adults. Research has also suggested that getting the right amount of vitamin D enhances the immune system with its anti-inflammatory effects, and can help to prevent us getting ill from the common cold or flu. A study of 489 patients by Jama (2020) also found that patients with deficient vitamin D levels were at greater risk when testing positive for Covid-19 compared with patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D. Similarly, a study published in the British Medical Journal (2020) found that Covid-19 sufferers are twice as likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. More research is needed to draw concrete conclusions; however, the NHS and Public Health England are encouraging the public to start taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements per day due to the increased amount of time spent indoors this year.
Whilst it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, a well-balanced diet incorporating vitamin D rich foods will definitely help you to meet your daily goal – the following foods are good sources:
- Oily fish such as salmon, herring and sardines.
- Egg yolks.
- Fortified plant-based milk (such as Alpro) – coconut, almond, soy and almond.
- Fortified cereals or oats.
- Chestnut or portobello mushrooms.
Covid-19 aside, adequate levels of vitamin D could enhance your health during the colder, darker months. You can buy vitamin D supplements at most supermarkets and health stores, to be taken alongside a balanced and nutritious diet.