Vitamin D is a misnomer; it was incorrectly classified as a vitamin.
- are nutrients that are required in tiny amounts
- cannot be synthesised in sufficient quantities by our bodies
- must be obtained from our diet
Vitamin D is synthesised by the action of sunlight on the skin.
We need sufficient amount of sunlight exposure to synthesis our body's requirement of vitamin D; this does not happen in Britain and many parts of the world.
Change in behaviours is contributing to vitamin D deficiency:
- less outdoor activities (the Facebook and computer gaming generation)
- make-up now contains UV blockers to prevent ageing from sun damage
- use of sun blockers to prevent sunburn
- covering-up for religious reasons
- change in diet; we are eating less fatty fish (main source of dietary vitamin D)
- farmed fish have lower vitamin D levels than wild fish
Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body; with many effects on different organ systems.
We need relatively small amounts of vitamin D for our bones (~400 units per day) and large amounts for the immune system (~ 10,000U per day).
The current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D of 400 to 800U per day is too low.
We recommend a higher dose of 5,000U vitamin D per day to supplement that which we receive from sunlight and our diets.
We recommend monitoring blood levels of vitamin D, as vitamin D levels are also controlled by many other factors in the body; for example the rate at which vitamin D is activated and broken down in the body.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many different diseases as it has so many effects on the body.
It is important for MS'ers to be aware that vitamin D deficiency has been strongly associated with MS and probably explains why the disease is commoner the further away from the equator you go.
There are several ongoing trials and some further trials planned to test vitamin supplementation as a disease-modifying therapy.
Importantly, vitamin D supplementation may be an important preventative strategy for MS.
There is not getting away from the fact that vast majority of Britain are now spending the majority of their lives vitamin D deficient. This is not good for the health of the population.
Useful extra reading: vitamin D