WE all grew up learning that vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, but research suggests that the “sunshine vitamin” may have more benefits for the body – like keeping the immune system functioning at its peak.
During the sniffle season prevention is undoubtedly better than cure, and supplementing with vitamin D may be a safe and inexpensive way of enhancing the body’s natural defences.
In simple terms, vitamin D improves the way in which the body identifies and eradicates threats to the system – it’s a bit like installing an upgrade to the existing anti-virus software.
Nowadays, deficiencies in this vital nutrient are more common due to reduced sun exposure (we spend more time indoors, and apply more sunscreens), and because certain food sources, like organ meats, are less popular. One way of correcting the imbalance is through regular supplementation.
Seemingly contradictory findings have led to new suggestions on effective dosage.
Studies on mega-dosing of the nutrient on a fortnightly or monthly basis show little or no change to immunity, while those on the impact of a smaller daily intake show more promising results. It seems that a steady supply is the best way forward.
European guidelines have recently been increased to 600 IU (international units) for adults daily, but experts suggest that the sweet spot sits closer to 1,000-2,000 IU per day, especially during winter.
This has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing both the frequency and severity of common seasonal ailments like colds and flu. While it may not be a miracle cure, it offers a practical approach in keeping those winter woes at bay.
As with all supplements, seek qualified advice before use, especially if pregnant or using other medications.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Lifestyle Magazine