Vitamin D is crucial for the body, as it helps to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy, said the NHS. Without enough vitamin D – which is also known as the ‘sunshine’ supplement – it’s difficult to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. A severe lack of the vitamin may even lead to bone deformities, rickets, or osteomalacia. You could lower your risk of a vitamin D deficiency by exposing large areas of skin to the sun.
Exposing as much of your skin as possible to direct sunlight is the best way to avoid deficiency symptoms, warned the Vitamin D Council.
Larger areas of skin, including the back, provides more vitamin D than small areas, such as the face and neck.
You’ll only need to expose your skin to the sun for just a small amount of time to make adequate levels of vitamin D, it said.
“The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements,” said the Vitamin D Council. “You can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food.
“The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight [ultraviolet B rays – UVB]. This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer.
“You don’t need to tan or to burn your skin in order to get the vitamin D you need. Exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day.
“In fact, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn.
“You make the most vitamin D when you expose a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms.”
But, fewer UVB rays reach your skin on cloudy days, which subsequently means you make less vitamin D.
Areas of high air pollution reflect some UVB back into space, so the skin also makes less vitamin D.
Those most at risk of a deficiency are people that spend a lot of time indoors, or cover up their skin with lots of clothes.
During the autumn and winter months, the body struggles to produce enough vitamin D, due to the axis of the earth and reduced daylight hours.
So, it’s important to get enough vitamin D from your diet. The best food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, and some fortified products.
You could also top up on vitamin D by taking vitamin D supplements. The best ones to look out for are vitamin D3 supplements, as the skin naturally makes vitamin D3.
It’s recommended that everyone takes a 10mcg vitamin D supplement from September to March to prevent a deficiency.
Speak to a doctor if you think you’re at risk of a vitamin D deficiency.