Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for everyone's health. It helps the body regulate calcium and phosphate. The body needs these to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. To stay healthy, children aged from one year old and all adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.

Sources of vitamin D

The body makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. For most people during spring and summer ( between April and September), the action of sunlight on skin is their main source of vitamin D.  

Vitamin D is also found in some foods including:

  • fresh and tinned oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout kippers and sardines
  • eggs and meat
  • fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals, soya and dairy products and powdered milks (amounts in these products vary and are often quite small)

Getting enough vitamin D

In spring and summer, most people get enough vitamin D through sunlight on their skin and a healthy, balanced diet. During autumn and winter months, sunlight is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.  People need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D and consider taking a daily supplement.

Vitamin D daily quantity for babies

Babies from birth to one year old need between 8.5 and 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day. Babies should be given a daily supplement to make sure they get enough vitamin D. Babies taking more than 500ml of infant formula a day do not need any additional vitamin D as formula is fortified.

Vitamin D daily quantity for children and adults

Children aged from one year old and adults, including pregnant and breast-feeding women, need 10 micrograms a day. Children between one and four years old should be given a daily supplement throughout the year to make sure they get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D supplements

As vitamin D is found only in a small amount of foods, it can be difficult to get enough from foods alone. To make sure you’re taking enough vitamin ,  children from five years old and all adults including pregnant and breast-feeding women, should take a daily 10 microgram supplement between October and March.

People requiring vitamin D supplements all year

Some groups of people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency and need to take a supplement throughout the year.  These groups include:

  • people who are housebound or in institutions such as care homes
  • people who usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
  • people with dark skin from African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds

Doctor’s advice about taking vitamin D supplements

For most people taking a daily vitamin D 10 microgram supplement is enough.  Unless advised by a doctor, you should not take or give your child a supplement containing more than the recommended daily amount. Some people with certain medical conditions may not be able to safely take a daily 10 microgram supplement. If your doctor recommends you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.

Taking too much vitamin D

The only way to take too much vitamin D is by supplements. Taking high doses of vitamin D for long periods could weaken your bones and damage your kidneys and heart.

Your body does not make too much vitamin D from sun exposure.

Exposing skin to the sun

There isn’t a precise amount of time to spend in the sun for the body to produce adequate vitamin D. If you’re in the sun, avoid turning red or getting sunburnt. Too much exposure to sun can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.  

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