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Vitamin D for bones

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium, which gives your bones their strength and hardness.

There are three ways you can get vitamin D:

  • From sunlight
  • From food
  • From supplements

Low vitamin D levels could increase your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones. And a severe shortage of vitamin D causes rickets and osteomalacia, which is soft, weak bones.

Coronavirus pandemic and vitamin D

Public health advice is that you consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (sometimes called 400 units) of vitamin D.

This is to help keep your bones and muscles healthy while you stay at home during the pandemic. It is not because vitamin D reduces your risk of coronavirus. Spending more time indoors means you're getting less vitamin D from the sun.

You don't need blood tests to monitor your vitamin D levels before you start a supplement, or while you're taking one.

Do not take a higher dose than recommended, unless your healthcare professional tells you to. Too much vitamin D can be dangerous. Be reassured there is no risk of having too much vitamin D if you follow the advice of your healthcare professional.

If you're already taking vitamin D on the advice of your healthcare professional, you should continue with your normal dose. You don't need to take a bigger dose.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline.

Sunlight

When the sun’s rays fall on your body, they react with your skin to make vitamin D.

In the UK, your skin can only get vitamin D from sunlight between March and September.

During this time, it's recommended you expose your skin to direct sunlight for around 10 minutes, once or twice per day.

Give your skin short periods in the sun, when you haven’t applied sunscreen, while you're doing short outdoor tasks, like:

  • Hanging out the washing
  • Pulling up weeds
  • Walking to the shops

Remember:

  • If the weather is cloudy, it takes longer to produce the same amount of vitamin D as on a sunny day
  • Glass blocks the sun’s rays, so go outside, or open your window
  • Darker skin produces vitamin D at a slower rate
  • Sunblock and high factor sunscreen stops the sun's rays reaching your skin and reduces the amount of vitamin D your body makes

Sunburn and skin damage

If your skin is exposed to the sun for more than 10 minutes, always use sunblock or sunscreen. And avoid exposing your skin to direct sunlight in the middle of the day when the sun it at its strongest.

Don't be tempted to not wear sunscreen for long periods to increase your vitamin D levels. You may do more damage to your skin than good for your bones.

Babies and children have very sensitive skin, so need careful protection.

Food

There's a small amount of vitamin D in some foods, but it's difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. 

Foods containing vitamin D include:

  • oily fish, like herring, salmon and mackerel
  • eggs
  • some pork products
  • lamb's liver
  • fortified bread
  • fortified yoghurts
  • specially processed mushrooms

Use our Vitamin D-rich food chooser to find more foods rich in vitamin D, and calculate how much you're getting each day.

Supplements

Between October and February, you should consider taking a daily 10 microgram (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement. This is because you can't get vitamin D from the sun in winter.

You don't need blood tests to monitor your vitamin D levels before you start a supplement, or while you're taking one.

Do not take a higher dose than recommended, unless your healthcare professional tells you to. Too much vitamin D can be dangerous.

It's usually recommended you take a supplement all year round, especially if you take an osteoporosis treatment. 

Osteoporosis treatments work better if you have good vitamin D levels.

If your healthcare professional thinks you need a vitamin D supplement, they'll advise you on how big a dose to take.

Be reassured there is no risk of having too much vitamin D if you follow the advice of your healthcare professional.

If you're unsure, contact our free Helpline

 

Consider taking a daily 10 microgram (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round.

Your skin has less exposure to sunlight, which reduces the amount of vitamin D your body makes.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

Consider taking a daily 10 microgram (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round.

Your skin has less exposure to sunlight, which reduces the amount of vitamin D your body makes.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

Consider taking a daily 10 microgram (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round.

Sunblock stops the sun's rays reaching your skin and reduces the amount of vitamin D your body makes.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

Consider taking a daily 10 microgram (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round.

Your skin produces vitamin D slower than lighter skin.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

It's recommended they have a daily 8.5 to 10 micrograms (340 to 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round, to help their bones grow healthy and strong.

This is unless they get at least 500ml of formula milk a day.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

It's recommended they have a daily 10 micrograms (sometimes called 400 units) vitamin D supplement all year round, to help their bones grow healthy and strong.

If you're unsure, speak to your healthcare professional, or contact our free Helpline

Get support from a Specialist Nurse

Contact our free Helpline for tailored information about osteoporosis and bone health:

0808 800 0035

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