About Vitamin D3

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is required

A sun icon with vitamin D inside in text and also an image of two fish under the sun

  • For strong and healthy bones Vitamin D is a vitamin that is needed for good health. It helps the calcium and phosphorous in our diet to be absorbed. Children need vitamin D to build strong bones, and adults need it to keep their bones strong and healthy.
  • For muscles and general health Vitamin D is also thought to be important for muscle growth and for general health.
  • Produced by sunlight exposure Vitamin D is mostly made in the skin by exposure to sunlight. Very little of our natural diet contains vitamin D, although some foods are fortified (enriched) with it. We get vitamin D from food such as oily fish (Mackerel and Salmon), eggs and supermilk.

There are two types of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the type our bodies make by absorbing sunlight through our skin.

What is vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency means you have a low level of vitamin D in your body. If your doctor suspects you are deficient in vitamin D, they may do a blood test as part of the diagnosis. The results of this test will show if you have vitamin D deficiency.

If your doctor thinks that you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, they may decide to treat you to prevent this from happening. Vitamin D deficiency is not unusual – research shows that just over 1 in 10 people in Europe have vitamin D levels that are considered to be too low for good bone health.

These figures are much higher in winter time.1 As Ireland lies quite far north, there are about 5 months of the year (October to February) when little or no vitamin D is made naturally in the skin.2

What happens if I am deficient in vitamin D?

When you develop vitamin D deficiency, it means your body is only absorbing small amounts of calcium and phosphate. You need these minerals to keep your bones healthy.

Therefore, a deficiency in vitamin D puts you at risk of developing certain conditions – such as rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults). These conditions cause pain and discomfort in the muscles and bones, which become weak and soft. In some cases, the bones may become deformed

Why does vitamin D deficiency develop?

Our main source of vitamin D is from sunlight on our skin. Because of this, the most common cause of vitamin D deficiency is a lack of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is most common in people who don’t spend much time outdoors, such as older people and people who live in nursing homes.

A shortage of vitamin D in the diet is another major reason for vitamin D deficiency. It can be difficult to get vitamin D in your diet, as it is naturally present in only a few foods

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

Some people are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency than others.  Silhouette of an elderly women with a walking stick
Those most at risk are:

  •  people over 65,
  •  people who don’t get out into the sunlight – for example, people in hospital or nursing homes,
  •  dark skinned people,
  •  people who cover up their skin with clothes, perhaps for cultural reasons.

Other at risk groups include people who are obese, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

How can I boost my Vitamin D levels?

There are 3 key ways to boost your vitamin D levels.   Chicken eggs in a bowl

1) Through increased exposure to sunlight
2) From the diet
3) Through a vitamin D supplement or prescribed vitamin D medicine.

1. Obtaining Vitamin D through sunlight
Most people get the amount of vitamin D they need from sunlight (ultraviolet B exposure [UVB]) on the skin. We don’t need much, just 20–30 minutes of sunlight on the face and forearms around the middle of the day 2–3 times a week, in the summer months, is usually enough for people with fair skin, however those with darker skin, or the elderly, may need longer.

A dim outlook for much of Ireland 
Unfortunately as Ireland lies quite far north there are about 5 months of the year (October to February) when little or no vitamin D is made naturally in the skin.2

2. Obtaining Vitamin D through diet
Some foods that are easy to include in our everyday diet can help boost our vitamin D levels.
These include:

•  Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel (canned or fresh)
•  Egg yolks
•  Fortified fat spreads
•  Fortified cereals and milk
•  Powdered milk

People who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, or a non-fish-eating diet may be at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.

3. Treatments

What other treatments are available for vitamin D deficiency?

Food supplements
These can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets and they come in a range of sizes and formats.

Prescribed Medicines
Vitamin D medicines are usually prescribed by your doctor. You may require these for several weeks or your prescription may be ongoing. It is important that you take your medicines as prescribed in order to get the full benefit and to reduce the risk of any side effects.

What is the difference between an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement and a vitamin D prescription medicine?

Vitamin D supplements that you can buy at your pharmacy are manufactured to different standards than prescription-only medicines such as Altavita D3.

You can be sure with a prescription-only medicine, such as Altavita D3 , that your medicine will provide you with a consistent amount of vitamin D at the quantity specified on the pack.

IE/ALT/0816/0012d(1) Date of Preparation: November 2017

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