Health HELLO SUNSHINE Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because its produced in the skin in response to sunlight. But are you getting enough? Words: Georgina Wintersgill S ummers the perfect time to get out and top up our levels of vitamin D. Sunlights the best source, but its also found in foods including oily fish, meat, and eggs, plus some fortified foods. This essential vitamin helps the body maintain calcium and phosphate levels to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Unfortunately, many people dont get enough. Heres what you need to know. Why is vitamin D important? SAFE SUN Its known to protect bone and muscle strength. In 2015, American researchers studied a group of obese people with osteoarthritis. They found that those with adequate vitamin D levels could walk, balance, and go from sitting to standing better than those with low levels. Vitamin D may also have anti-inflammatory effects and help to maintain a healthy immune system. In 2014, UK researchers examined a group of over-60s for vitamin D levels and biomarkers of inflammation. They found that those who were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to have high levels of these biomarkers, which are linked to cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The NHS recommends all adults (and children over 12 months) consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially in autumn and winter. From October to early March, the UK isnt sunny enough for our bodies to make the vitamin D we need, and its hard to get enough from food. During spring and summer, most people get enough from sunlight and a balanced diet. However, if you dont get out much, have dark skin, or cover up when outside, youre at risk of low vitamin D and should consider a supplement all year round. Dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker says: The main thing is to take it every day 10 micrograms is recommended. People who use certain drugs, including steroid tablets, are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Read the labels or talk to a pharmacist to check whether any of your medication puts you at risk. Signs of deficiency SAFE SUN Regular sun exposure increases your vitamin D levels but too much can increase your risk of skin cancer. Heres how to get the balance right. DO go outdoors without sunscreen for short periods every day. DO choose a time of day when the suns out. DO show some skin when its warm enough. DONT risk sunburn! Know whats right for you it may be just a few minutes in the sunshine if youre pale. Cover up and/or use sunscreen if youre staying out longer. Vitamin D deficiency may be more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. In 2018, an Indian study found 84 per cent of participants with the condition were deficient, compared with 34 per cent without. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include tiredness and aches. Signs of a more severe deficiency include bone, joint and muscle pain; muscle weakness; difficulty walking; and bones that fracture easily. Ask your GP for a blood test if youre concerned. From October to early March, the UK isnt sunny enough for our bodies to make the vitamin D we need, and its hard to get enough from food