Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice for the UK recommends. According to recent studies, it is estimated that one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels. In the UK, our bodies are not absorbing sufficient levels of vitamin D due to the lack of exposure to sunlight, which aids vitamin D production. We cannot achieve the required level of the vitamin through diet alone, therefore it is recommended to take a supplement.
Limited amounts of the vitamin D are found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals. But, for the majority people, most of their vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on their skin.
Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are vital for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
In extreme cases, low levels can lead to rickets in children - where the bones become soft and weak and misshapen as they continue to grow. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia - causing severe bone pain and muscle aches.
But there is a balance - too much vitamin D can lead to high levels of calcium in the blood which can cause heart and kidney problems. Anyone with a chronic condition or taking medication should seek advice from their doctor before taking a Vitamin D supplement.