/ Food & Drink, Health

Are you topping up your vitamin D levels?

Vitamin D

Over the last few days, people up and down the country have been sunning themselves and so vitamin D levels are the least of our worries. But, vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and joints, so how are you keeping your levels topped up?

Throughout the year, most of us don’t get enough vitamin D – so much so that last year, the government issued advice for everyone over the age of one to consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms.

Most of the vitamin D we get is made when we’re in the sunlight, so it’s no surprise that we UK residents just aren’t getting enough.

Putting the D in food

There are a few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, such as oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks.

But in the last few years, it seems like lots of foods that contain added vitamin D have cropped up in our supermarkets.

I’ve seen vitamin D added to milk in Asda, mushrooms in Tesco, and bread in M&S. Not to forget the margarines, breakfast cereals and yoghurts that are fortified with vitamin D.

I spoke to some nutrition experts who said that new food sources of vitamin D were a welcome addition, but that you’d have to eat them every day to make sure you were getting enough. And often, a supplement can be cheaper.

Personally, I’d prefer to rely on a supplement that will give me the amount I need, rather than try to calculate the levels in lots of different fortified foods every day.

But I can see how buying vitamin-infused staples like milk and bread might be an easy way to get what you need without making any changes.

Getting vitamin D

If you do choose to buy food with added vitamins, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’ll give you everything you need in one portion.

The government advice is for adults and children over the age of one to get 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day. But you won’t see this on any food labels, as these are bound by labelling rules which quote an old figure of 5 micrograms.

So while a yoghurt drink might say it’ll give you 15% of your daily recommended intake, it could actually be delivering just 7.5%.

Do you buy food that’s been fortified with vitamin D? And do you check the label to see how much you’re getting? Or do you stick to supplements?

John Beardmore says:
20 June 2017

Good point, but would’t it be most sensible to highlight this issue going into autumn ?


We ran a news article on where to get the cheapest vitamin D supplements last November, and this article was more about food with added vitamin D in it – never too early to start planning ahead for autumn 😛

Mike Gower says:
20 June 2017

I am actually prescribed vitamin D supplements by my GP as I have a condition that creates a deficiency. However my GP stresses that you cannot take vitamin D supplements continuously as that in itself can be harmful.


It is nice to be reminded that the UK is catching up with other countries in this matter of Vitamin D insufficiency.

I suspect that there is a qualifier Mike, and that would be at the levels you currently take them however that is a guess. I have never seen that advice written before though I have been following the Vitamin D saga for some years. The closest to that is NHS England advice:

“What happens if I take too much vitamin D?
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10mcg a day will be enough for most people.
Don’t take more than 100mcg of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11-17 years.
Children aged 1-10 years shouldn’t have more than 50mcg a day. Infants under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25mcg a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.”


This is the Scottish Government’s advice:

I take a vitamin D supplement every day between October and March.

John H Atkinson says:
21 June 2017

There are some bits of information about Vitamin D missing. Is it fat soluble and stored in the liver, and is it possible to indicate how much exposure to the sun creates?


Yes, vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be stored in our bodies. Apparently it’s hard to tell how much vitamin D we can make as this is dependent on skin colour, how much skin is exposed, time of day, season, and cloud coverage (and other factors). This NHS Choices page summarises this: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Pages/vitamin-D-sunlight.aspx

As I understand it, our bodies automatically regulate how much vitamin D we make in sunlight, so we won’t make too much – but we might burn!


I prefer to get my vitamins from food and though I don’t worry about what I eat every meal or every day, I buy foods that are likely to provide me with sufficient vitamin D and also omega-3 fatty acids. For about the last year I have taken a single multivitamin tablet daily, providing 5mg vitamin D.

Vitamins are essential but the danger is to assume that more is better. That’s what the supplement sellers would like us to believe.

Introduction of HbA1c testing has helped to identify in the early stages of developing diabetes before severe damage has been done, not only helping individuals but saving the NHS a fortune. I wonder if there is a case for routine testing of vitamin D levels, carrying out a test during the winter when there is no sun and stores may have been depleted. Our NHS is very good at treating illness but as many have said, it’s better to prevent problems.

I try to keep out of sun when it is most intense, so may have not made a great deal of vitamin D during the recent hot spell.


Your first paragraph Wavechange-correct, vitamins are more easily digestible + provide addition benefits if part of a food intake not a vitamin intake. The Readers Digest (USA) has an article on this particularly in relation to woman’s health and pregnancy-author Marian Neuhouser PhD in the Cancer Prevention Programme at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer research Centre Seattle. Some interesting studies including myth busting in relation to multi-vitamins : http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/5-vitamin-truths-and-lies/