Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - HEALTH -

Awhile ago, a pa­tient in her 70s came to see me. I was alarmed to see her look­ing so frail. She had lost her ap­petite and had stopped go­ing out be­cause, she said, ‘I just don’t have the en­ergy and I ache all over.’ I took a blood sam­ple and when the re­sults came back, the an­swer was clear: her vi­ta­min D lev­els were ab­nor­mally low. I pre­scribed high-dose vi­ta­min D tablets and ar­ranged a fol­low-up ap­point­ment.

Vi­ta­min D is made nat­u­rally in the body on ex­po­sure to sun­light, but de­fi­ciency is com­mon, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the dark win­ter months, if you al­ways wear sun­screen or are al­most fully cov­ered. Hav­ing dark skin, be­ing el­derly or obese also in­creases your risk.

Should you be sup­ple­ment­ing? Of­fi­cial ad­vice is that dur­ing the win­ter most peo­ple should, be­cause of lack of strong sun­light. If you are not de­fi­cient it is prob­a­bly not nec­es­sary; a re­cent study of 53,000 peo­ple con­cluded that only those with low vi­ta­min D lev­els get bone benefits from sup­ple­ments. 8 SIGNS THAT YOU MAY BE LACK­ING IN VI­TA­MIN D

Your bones ache. Vi­ta­min D in­creases ab­sorp­tion of cal­cium, so is im­por­tant for strong bones. With se­vere de­fi­ciency, bones can be­come thin, brit­tle and even mis­shapen (rick­ets). Shock­ingly, rick­ets is mak­ing a come­back, usu­ally as a re­sult of our in­door life­styles; I have even seen chil­dren with it in my surgery.

You frac­ture a bone af­ter a mi­nor fall. Thin­ning of the bones (os­teo­poro­sis) is a par­tic­u­lar problem for women dur­ing and af­ter menopause, when bone loss speeds up and there’s a greater risk of frac­tures.

Wounds take longer to heal – some types, such as leg ul­cers, have been shown to re­duce by 28 per cent af­ter tak­ing the vi­ta­min.

You’re less able to fight off in­fec­tions. Your hair is thin­ning or fall­ing out. You have un­ex­plained aches and pains. In one study, 71 per cent of peo­ple with chronic pain were found to be de­fi­cient in vi­ta­min D.

You feel low and even de­pressed. In win­ter, this can present it­self as sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der. Some stud­ies have shown im­prove­ments in mood with vi­ta­min D.

You’re tired all the time. This non-spe­cific symp­tom is of­ten over­looked by doc­tors and pa­tients.


Diet and sun­shine. You get small amounts from oily fish, sea­weed, for­ti­fied dairy prod­ucts, beef, liver, cod liver oil and eggs – but gen­er­ally, it’s not enough. The best source is sun­light, but you’re un­likely to get what you need at this time of year.

Sup­ple­ments: you might con­sider the rec­om­mended daily sup­ple­ment of 400-800 IU in win­ter months (and, if you rarely get sun­light, all year round). It’s im­por­tant not to overdo dosage.


Dr Clare Bai­ley

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