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Vitamin D Information for patients

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone health.  It is needed to absorb calcium and other nutrients from our diet and helps to keep bones strong. Vitamin D may also help to keep us healthy in other ways, for example by helping the immune system, but the evidence for this is not clear.

Taking vitamin D supplements is recommended for people who may not get enough vitamin D or who have been identified as having low levels of vitamin D from a blood test. 

Vitamin D deficiency

Adults with very low levels of vitamin D for a long time develop a condition called osteomalacia. In this condition, calcium is lost from the bones.  The bones become softened and painful and broken bones (fractures) can occur without an injury. In osteomalacia, the muscles also become weak making it hard to walk. Children who have very low vitamin D develop a similar condition called rickets which can also affect growth.

Nearly all the vitamin D we obtain is made in our body from sunlight (around 90%), so safe sun exposure is important. Only a very small amount of vitamin D comes from the foods we eat.  However, it is still important to eat foods that contain vitamin D as part of a balanced diet. 

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency than others. This may be because they cannot produce enough vitamin D from the effect of sunshine on the skin, because their diet is low in vitamin D, or a combination of the two.


Calcium is also vital for strong teeth and bones. Most people should be able to get enough calcium through healthy eating.  The daily recommended amount of calcium varies, for example with age, but 700mg daily is sufficient to meet the daily requirements for nearly all of the adult population.  

Examples of calcium rich foods are milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu and nuts.  You can find further information on the following webpage: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/healthy-bones/Pages/food-and-diet-for-strong-bones.aspx

You can calculate how much calcium you are getting from your diet by using a ‘calcium calculator’.  See the following webpage http://www.cgem.ed.ac.uk/research/rheumatological/calcium-calculator.


NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

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