How is Vitamin D Useful for Good Bone Health?

We all know of the importance of calcium where healthy bones are concerned, but most people don’t realise that vitamin D is also vital for healthy teeth and bones. Most foods don’t contain a lot of this nutrient, unless you can source it in fortified bread and cereals, so it can be easy to become deficient in it without realising. Natural sunlight is our best source, but with the fear over sun damage in the past thirty years, this too has become a worry and many people now avoid exposure to sunlight.

A mild lack of vitamin D in the body can cause tiredness and a general feeling of aches in the body, but more severe problems result in rickets or osteomalacia in adults. The treatment for this is vitamin D supplements which are taken routinely to top up the body’s reserves. Your GP may advise these supplements if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding; if you’re over 65 years old; for children up to five years, and those who aren’t exposed to much sunlight. They may also recommend them for people with specific gut, liver or kidney diseases, and for certain people with darker skin. Vitamin D is often overlooked but it is a vital nutrient for good health. There are some foods which contain it, including oily fish such as sardines, trout and salmon, as well as fortified breads and cereals.

Ultraviolet B rays (UVB) in sunlight convert cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D – for people with fair skin, this amounts to around 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight on the face and forearms, around two to three times a week to make enough vitamin D. For people with darker skin, though, the time needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D is much more and this becomes dangerous, as sun damage can lead to other concerns. It’s important to remember that this isn’t the same as sun bathing though – the skin just needs to be exposed to the sun, not tanned or burned by it. Remember that the sun needs to fall directly onto the skin itself, not through a window.

For six months of the year, through October to April, most of western Europe and 90 percent of the UK, lies too far north to get enough UVB rays to make the sufficient amount of vitamin D for good health. The main purpose of vitamin D is to help calcium and phosphorus in the diet to be absorbed by the stomach. These are crucial for our bones and teeth to stay healthy and strong. It’s also been proven that vitamin D can help to prevent other diseases and ailments, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A deficiency in vitamin D can occur in three ways – either the body has a greater need for the nutrient, it’s unable to make the vitamin on its own, or there isn’t enough vitamin D in the diet.


Vitamin D deficiency affects around one in six people in the winter and spring in the UK, and a study showed that more than half of UK adults don’t get enough of this nutrient. However, most of these people don’t realise they are deficient, or simply have mild symptoms such as feeling tired more than normal. A simple blood test can diagnose this issue, and if a child is thought to be deficient they may be tested with an x-ray. Your GP can advise you of ways to improve your vitamin D count if you think you may be at risk.

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