New research supports the link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system. The recent study of almost 7,000 adults in the UK has confirmed a link between Vitamin D levels and the risk of infection (1).
Natural sunshine can provide our bodies with up to 10,000iu vitamin D each day. This ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps to boost the body’s defences by increasing levels of ‘anti-microbial peptides’. Working like natural antibiotics, these peptides mount an attack against unwanted infections.
During the winter months, infections such as colds, flu and chest infections are common. It is believed that this increased risk of infection is due in part to the lower levels of vitamin D that we receive in the colder months.
There is however increasing concern over vitamin D levels throughout the year. After all, most of us are careful to protect our skin from the sun during the summer months, a sensible measure to help prevent burning, premature skin ageing and to protect against skin cancer.
The study, conducted by researchers from University College London, looked at the relationship between Vitamin D levels and infection. Higher levels of vitamin D were linked with lower risk of infection.
While this particular study was epidemiological in nature, it will be interesting to see how future controlled trials will further our understanding. After all, vitamin D not only supports the immune system and bone health. More recently, deficiency has been linked with cardiovascular disease, impaired glucose tolerance, poor muscle development and certain types of cancer (2). The Department of Health now recommends that certain groups in the UK population should take daily vitamin D supplements (3). These groups are:
• all children aged six months to five years old
• all pregnant and breastfeeding women
• all people aged 65 and over
• people who are not exposed to much sun, such as those who are confined indoors for long periods
• people with darker skins such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin
While vitamin D can be obtained in the diet through oily fish such as salmon and sardines, it is generally believed that supplementation is the most viable way of ensuring adequate intake. A recent European policy document concludes that “only vitamin D supplements or vitamin D enriched food products are truly viable options for optimising the vitamin D status” (4).
Bolstering your vitamin D levels can be as simple as spending some time outdoors every day, while ensuring that you eat vitamin D enriched foods such as breakfast cereals, milk, margarine and soy drinks. Those who would like to take an easily absorbed supplement might consider an emulsified liquid vitamin D such as Biocare’s BioMulsion D which provides 2000iu vitamin D in just two drops.
Written by Nadia Mason
1. Berry DJ, et al. Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults. British Journal of Nutrition. Available on CJO June 2011 doi:10.1017/S0007114511001991
2. Vieth R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Boucher BJ, Dawson-Hughes B, Garland CF, Heaney RP, Holick MF, Hollis BW, Lamberg-Allardt C, McGrath JJ, Norman AW, Scragg R, Whiting SJ, Willett WC, Zittermann A. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:649–50.
3. NHS Choices. “Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamin D”. Web article. Visited on 30th June 2011.
4. The Standing Committee of European Doctors. Vitamin D Nutritional Policy in Europe. March 2010. Visited on 30th June 2011.
5. Image Ccourtesy of digitalart.