ONE in four Irish mums are in the dark about Vitamin D — in a recent survey, 25% admitted “not knowing anything” about the vitamin.

Most of the 500 mums surveyed (83%) reported concern about their children getting enough vitamin D, while 68% are also concerned about getting adequate amounts themselves. 

On a positive note, four in 10 believe vitamin D is the most important vitamin for their overall health.

Awareness of vitamin D’s importance is growing, says nutritionist Claire McGartland. 

She believes the gap in public knowledge is around how to get the vitamin — 42% of mums don’t know what foods contain it. 

Many incorrectly assume fruit (bananas 14%, apples seven percent), beans (17%) and dark chocolate (14%) are good sources.

This knowledge deficit doesn’t surprise McGartland, who says the sunshine vitamin is difficult to understand when it comes to food sources.

“People are used to hearing about how vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables are, so they expect vitamin D to be there too. Very few foods contain it naturally, apart from oily fish and eggs.”

Almost 60% of those surveyed admit they find it difficult to incorporate vitamin D into their children’s diet. 

There’s no doubt incorporating vitamin D into the diet from natural sources is challenging, particularly in the case of children’s diets, says McGartland.

“Despite our vast coastline and access to fresh oily fish, we’re not a great fish-eating nation. 

"[But] our children are great consumers of dairy, so it makes sense to incorporate fortified milk and yoghurt, as well as fortified cereals into all our diets.”

Irish vitamin D intake is worryingly low — 74% of adults and 88% of primary school children have an average daily intake of less than five micrograms, the recommended amount for children up to one year and for those aged five to 50. 

This level increases to 10 micrograms for those over 50, while guideline amounts for one- to five-year-olds are currently under review.

When sunlight hits skin, ultra-violet (UVB) sunrays make vitamin D. 

But, from October to March — in countries at latitudes greater than 42 degrees north — little or no vitamin D can be produced due to sunlight quality and quantity. 

Ireland is 51-55 degrees north. 

“We don’t always get enough sun during summer, so our vitamin D stores may not be enough to get through winter. 

"This is why it’s so important people get vitamin D from other sources.”

Top tips

* Vitamin D amounts in following foods: one egg: 1.6g (microgram); 100g lamb’s liver: 0.9g; 250ml glass fortified milk: 5g; 170g salmon: 13.3g; 200g mackerel: 17g; 30g fortified cereal:1.3g.

* Vitamin D is fat-soluble. It helps our bodies use calcium to build strong bones and teeth.

* Vitamin D regulates cell division and muscle function and supports the immune system.

* Check out your levels with a Vitamin D calculator, at www.avonmore.ie/supermilk 


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