1. What is Vitamin D and why does the body need it?

Vitamin D is unlike any other vitamin in the body. Did you know that vitamin D can be produced from precursors that already exist in the body? The body is triggered to produce vitamin D by sunshine on the skin (UVB light exposure) and makes a much bigger contribution to the human body’s supply with this vitamin compared to vitamin D intake by diet. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphate metabolism, thereby hardening of the bone. Additionally, vitamin D is involved in other metabolic processes of the body and has an influence on muscle power.

2. How much sun does the body need to produce enough vitamin D for itself?

The body’s own vitamin D production in the skin through sunlight (UVB radiation) depends on the latitude, time of year and time of day, weather conditions, clothing, the length of time spent outdoors and skin type as well as the use of sun protection products which inhibit the body’s own production. This means that the contribution to the vitamin D supply can be different for every individual. Depending on where you live in the world, what season it is and what length of time you are exposed in the sun, there is no definite answer for the amount of time needed to get sufficient Vitamin D from the sun. For example, in Germany, to expose a quarter of the surface area of the body (face, hands and parts of the arms and legs) to the sun every day for roughly half the year between noon and 3pm for 5 to 25 minutes. This is only during the summer months and the radiation in Germany in the winter months would not be strong
enough to guarantee a sufficient vitamin D production. However, vitamin D can be stored in the body.

3. How is the body able to store vitamin D?

Vitamin D is mainly stored in the muscle and fat tissue of the human body and has smaller quantities in the liver. The storage capacity is relatively large and contributes to vitamin D supply in winter.

4. What are the consequences of a vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is very common. Its estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. During infancy and childhood, vitamin D deficiency can cause soft bones or deformities (such
as rickets). Signs of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include:

> Getting sick or infected often
> Fatigue and tiredness
> Bone and back pain
> Depression
> Impaired wound healing
> Bone loss
> Hair loss
> Muscle pain

A Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common, and most people are not aware of it. This is because symptoms are often subtle and non-specific, meaning that it is hard to know if they are caused by low levels of vitamin D or something else.
Luckily if you think you have a deficiency, it is an easy fix. You can either increase your sun exposure (but be careful in South Africa-as our sun is strong), eat more vitamin D rich foods, such as fatty fish or fortified dairy products. The easiest way to get the correct dosage is through a supplement.


5. Who is the highest risk for a Vitamin D deficiency?

There are 7 common risk factors to incurring a vitamin D efficiency:
> Having dark skin
> The elderly
> Not eating a lot of fish or dairy
> Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round
> Always using sunscreen when going out
> Staying indoors

As South Africans are very aware that our UV levels are very high. We tend to use sunscreen to protect our skin (which is great), but we forget that this is blocking the good UV rays that are needed to form vitamin D!

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