Vitamin D is essential for bone health and plays a vital role in calcium and phosphorus absorption. Produced when the skin is exposed to UVB radiation and found naturally in certain foods, most people should be able to get a sufficient amount of the essential vitamin from exposure to the sun and a healthy diet.
You would assume that runners get enough vitamin D from training outdoors to keep us going. However, the UK is one of the cloudiest countries in the industrialised world, which can affect skin synthesis. As the nights draw in, cloud cover combined with minimal sunshine can dramatically affect our ability to produce the vital vitamin.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamins are essential for health and development and deficiencies may lead to serious health consequences. A lack of vitamin D can cause bones to weaken, which can lead to bone deformities and put runners at risk of stress fractures. The most well known consequences of not having enough vitamin D are rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, which causes bone pain and tenderness. Left unchecked, vitamin D deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis, stress-related fractures, skeletal diseases, metabolic disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, infections and cognitive disorders.
Although you won’t necessarily experience symptoms, warning signs can include tiredness, general aches and pains and muscle weakness. Suffering from frequent infections could also be a telltale sign you aren’t getting enough of the essential stuff. The only way to accurately diagnose vitamin D deficiency is a blood test. If you think you may be deficient or you have any health concerns, you should see your doctor.
How to get sufficient vitamin D
If you are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, the most obvious solution is to get more sunshine. If you usually run at night, switch to lunchtime runs if possible and time your training to between 11am-3pm at the weekend to get the best of the daylight. Regularly going outside for a matter of minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen should be enough. However, overcast weather conditions and a reluctance to go bare during the winter months can affect skin synthesis. The more skin is exposed, the greater the chance of making sufficient vitamin D, so try and show your arms and legs (but avoid getting sunburn or frost bite!).
Dietary sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found naturally in a small number of food groups including eggs, meat and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. However, it’s hard to get an adequate amount of the vitamin from food alone. There are only a few naturally rich food sources of vitamin D and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report estimates that most people only get around five micrograms from their diets. A reference nutrient intake (RNI) for vitamin D of 10 micrograms per day is proposed for the whole UK population aged four and over throughout the year.
The current government advice is that at-risk groups, including pregnant women, children up to the age of five, adults over 65 and people with darker skin, as well as those who don’t expose their skin to sunlight, should take a daily vitamin D supplement. However, due to our minimal sunshine exposure from spending too much time indoors and cloudy weather conditions, the SACN propose that everyone in the UK over the age of one should supplement with vitamin D.
Andrew Thomas founder and MD at BetterYou says, “despite being the subject of more research than any other vitamin, public understanding of the importance of supplementation is still limited. Our internal lives and the increased use of SPF skincare makes supplementation essential for most of us.
“We work with many experts in this field, including doctors and paediatric doctors, and have been aware for a long time that cases of rickets and other bone diseases are on the rise. Vitamin D deficiency is so easily corrected by supplementation. By taking just one spray a day of one of our DLux oral sprays, many health conditions and diseases could be avoided.”
For more information on vitamin D supplementation, click here.