Healthy Habits: Vitamins for You
Monday, May 10, 2021

A recent Oireachtas report stated that Irish adults have an alarming level of vitamin D deficiency nationwide, due to a lack of sunlight (in particular UVB rays) as well as longer working hours indoors.

Vitamin D has several important functions, including:

  • Helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, needed to keep bones and teeth healthy
  • May help prevent respiratory infections in those who have low vitamin D levels

If you do not get enough vitamin D, you might be more at risk of some of the harmful effects of too much vitamin A (making your bones more likely to fracture when you are older). Ask your GP for more information.

A lack of vitamin D can also lead to rickets.

Sources of vitamin D

Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight on our skin. It is made in the skin from 10-15 minutes per day of sun exposure, in Ireland only made from late March to late September.

Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods, such as:

  • oily fish, such as salmon and sardines
  • eggs
  • fortified fat spreads
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • powdered milk

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency in Ireland?

  • Those who are housebound/confined
  • People who have little exposure to sun and/or eat inadequate amounts of fortified foods
  • People who do not take vitamin D supplements (only 4% of men and 15% of women aged 55+ take a vitamin D supplement)
  • People who are obese, physically inactive, have asthma or chronic lung disease
  • Elderly people & people with a darker skin tone/who belong to an ethnic minority are most at risk, with 64% of those over the age of 80 deficient, as well as a massive 93% of people in the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community in Ireland

The aforementioned Oireachtas report, released in April 2021, stated that every adult in Ireland should be taking vitamin D supplements. Along with the high levels of deficiency in older adults and those in the BAME community, the report stated that 47% of 18-39 year olds are deficient, along with 35% of 50-59 year olds.

Vitamin D Deficiency & COVID-19

Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to worse health outcomes in relation to COVID-19.

Professor John Faul who works in Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and contributed to the Oireachtas report spoke of patient profiling carried out in ICUs nationwide. Factors such as patients' immune systems and biologic situations were taken into account, and the only thing that really stuck out as a common factor was a deficiency in vitamin D.

How much should I be taking?

Vitamin D supplementation of 20-25 micrograms per day was recommended in the report to the entire adult population, and higher doses recommended for vulnerable groups under medical supervision.

Pop into your local StayWell Pharmacy and ask our dedicated in-store vitamin advisor about a vitamin D supplement for you.

Information sources: HSE, Irish Times