What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D, find out what it is and why you need it

Are you getting enough vitamin D?  Vitamin D is needed to keep your body functioning well. Vitamin D helps with strong bones and supports normal function of the immune system. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include muscle weakness, pain, fatigue, and depression. To make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D, you need include the right foods, supplements, and carefully planned sunlight.

NHS Coronavirus update

It's important to take vitamin D as you may have been indoors more than usual this year.

You should take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep your bones and muscles healthy.

There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D to prevent or treat coronavirus.

For more information visit the NHS Website

What is vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D | Next Gen U

Vitamin D deficiency designates that you do not have enough vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is unique because your skin creates it by using sunlight. Fair-skinned individuals and those who are younger convert sunshine into vitamin D far better than those who are over age 50 or have a darker-skin.

Why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D is one of many vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy. This vitamin has many functions, including:

  • Keeping bones strong: Having healthy bones protects you from various conditions, including rickets. Rickets is a disorder that causes children to have bones that are weak and soft. It is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the body. You need vitamin D so that calcium and phosphorus can be used to build bones.
  • Absorbing calcium: Along with calcium, vitamin D helps build bones and preserve good and healthy bones. Weak bones, which can lead to fractures, can lead to osteoporosis and a loss of bone density. Vitamin D is converted into an active form of vitamin when taken either orally or through exposure to sunlight. It is the active form that encourages maximum calcium absorption from your diet.
  • Working with parathyroid glands: These glands work constantly to balance the calcium in the blood by communicating with the kidneys, gut and skeleton. When there is sufficient calcium in the diet and sufficient active Vitamin D, dietary calcium is absorbed in the body and put to good use. If calcium intake is inadequate or vitamin D levels are low, calcium will be 'borrowed' from the skeleton by the parathyroid glands to maintain blood calcium in the normal range.

What are the health effects of vitamin D deficiency?

By protecting against the following conditions, having enough vitamin D can also play a role in helping to keep you safe from.

  • Heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Infections and immune system disorders.
  • Falls in older people.
  • Some types of cancer, such as colon, prostate and breast cancers.
  • Multiple sclerosis.

What are the sources of vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be sourced in a variety of ways. These can include:

  • Being exposed to the sun. About 15-20 minutes three days per week is usually sufficient.
  • Through the foods you eat.
  • Through nutritional supplements.

What does sunlight have to do with getting enough vitamin D?

The health benefits of sunshine are present when your skin is exposed to sunlight, or rather, the ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation that the sun emits, this creates vitamin D is created. The amount of vitamin D your skin produces depends on certain factors:

  • The season: This factor depends a bit on where you live.
  • The time of day: The sun's rays are most powerful between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • The amount of cloud cover and air pollution.
  • Where you live: Cities near the equator have higher ultraviolet (UV) light levels. It is the UV-B light in sunlight that causes your skin to make vitamin D.
  • The melanin content of your skin: Melanin is a brown-black pigment in the eyes, hair and skin. Melanin causes skin to tan. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure is needed in order to get sufficient vitamin D from the sun.

What does your diet have to do with getting enough vitamin D?

Vitamin D Rich Foods | Next Gen U

Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods. That’s why certain foods have added vitamin D. In fact, newer food nutrition labels show the amount of vitamin D contained in a particular food item.

It may be difficult, especially for vegans or people who are lactose-intolerant, to get enough vitamin D from their diets, which is why some people may choose to take supplements. It is always important to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups. The vitamin content of various foods is shown in the following table.


Vitamin D content in IUs per serving

Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon


Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces


Salmon (sockeye) cooked, 3 ounces


Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces


Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup


Milk, vitamin-fortified, 1 cup


Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the daily value of vitamin D, 6 ounces


Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines


Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces


Egg yolk, 1 large


Cereal, fortified with 10% of the daily value of vitamin D, 1 cup


Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce


Source: Vitamin D. Health Professionals. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. August 7, 2019.

As the amount of added vitamin D varies when it is artificially added to products such as orange juice, yogurt and margarine, it is important to review product labels.

How much vitamin D do you need?

Babies up to 1 year of age require 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.

Children and adults from the age of 1 require 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day. This includes women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, and individuals at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

The majority of individuals should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin from around late March/early April until the end of September.

A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg). The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol μ followed by the letter g (μg).

Sometimes the amount of vitamin D is expressed as International Units (IU). 1 microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU. So 10 micrograms of vitamin D is equal to 400 IU.

Advice for adults

During Autumn and Winter months, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.

But it's difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.

You may choose to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

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