Despite a few sunny days, this time of year can be filled with uncertainty and yet more, cold, grey and drizzly days (along with some snow!). After months of bitter cold, darkness and a distinct lack of vitamin D, many of us will feel fatigued, greying and fed up.
Researchers estimate that one third of the world is vitamin D deficient and this number is ever-growing. One way in which our bodies make vitamin D is through sun exposure. This proves difficult for those living in Northern latitudes in the autumn and winter months as the angle of the sun is too low in the sky to activate the vitamin D production process. While our bodies do store vitamin D for some months, by late autumn our stored levels are decreasing and by spring some people are producing little or no vitamin D. The optimum time for Vitamin D production from the sun in the Northern hemisphere is from April to October.
Other reasons for vitamin D deficiency include:
· a largely indoor lifestyle
· wearing sunscreen or covering up all year round
· having darker skin, which contains more melanin and slows down vitamin D production – this explains why those of African and South Asian descent are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
· age, our ability to make vitamin D decreases as we age, hence why older people might have lower vitamin D levels
· excess body fat, which decreases our levels of vitamin D and explains why overweight people may be more likely to be vitamin D deficient
As well as leaving us feeling weak, tired and depressed doctors are increasingly concerned about vitamin D deficiency as research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for a whole host of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Luckily, our bodies are also able to produce vitamin D through our diet. By including oily fresh fish and other omega 3 oils, such as eggs, fortified cereals, fortified cereals, mushrooms and cheese we can keep vitamin D deficiency at bay, even in the darkest of days. However, I would recommend anyone at risk to take a daily oral vitamin D supplement.
Making an effort to incorporate vitamin D rich foods into your diet helps to counteract the adverse effects of vitamin D deficiency and can help boost your mood and energy levels. Ultimately, bringing some sunshine back into your life, which is likely to be in short supply, especially if you're living in the U.K!