20 September, 2023

Dark times are upon us, people. Don’t worry, we don’t mean that in a deeper political or social sense. We mean, it’s literally going to be dark outside for longer.

Along with pumpkins, trick-or-treaters, and autumn leaves, October also signals the end of British Summer Time (BST). This means that the clocks will be going back by one hour, and the days will start to get shorter.  

The UK may not be a sunny holiday destination at many times of the year, but during the winter months, the lack of sun becomes even more apparent. However, losing the longer days doesn’t mean that we must accept losing out on Vitamin D too. 

What is Vitamin D? 

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that our body does not naturally have, we actually make it from our skin being exposed to sunlight. Your vitamin D absorption can depend on many different factors, including how much time you spend outdoors, what you eat, your age, and your skin type (read more about this here).  

Vitamin D is a really important nutrient that helps keep our bones and muscles in good condition. There are countless benefits to having good levels of vitamin D in our system. For starters, its promotion of calcium absorption means that it’s essential for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D can also reduce inflammation and help to bolster our immune systems. There have even been studies that have found that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. 

Sunlight is the easiest way to get vitamin D between the months of March -September, but a different approach is needed between October-February. Vitamin D’s ability to be stored in fat cells can help to maintain levels during the winter, but this may not be sufficient. 

How to get vitamin D during the winter? 

Due to limited sunlight, especially during winter months, and the often limited time spent outdoors, vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK population. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Thankfully there are other ways to get vitamin D into your system that don’t rely on it being a sunny day outside. 

Vitamin D is also present in many of the foods we already eat. It’s just about including some of these vitamin D-rich foods into your diet during the winter. Here is a list of a few food items you may consider incorporating into your diet over the next few months. Check out our full list here. 

  • Oily fish 
  • Wholegrain oats 
  • Almond Milk 
  • Egg Yolk 
  • Chanterelle mushrooms 

Should I take Vitamin D Supplements? 

Although there are affordable vitamin D supplements available on the market, these can vary in effectiveness compared to natural sources.  

You can’t get too much vitamin D through sunshine, but you can through supplements, which can lead to health problems. Ingesting more than 4000 IU per day (100 micrograms/day) increases the risk of harmful health effects. Some medical conditions can also mean you may not be able to take vitamin D at some doses. For this reason, we recommend speaking with your GP for professional guidance. 

While we’re unable to give you 12 months of sunshine (even though we wish we could!), hopefully, we’ve given you some tips to get the vitamin D your need until the sun comes back around. Your body will never know the difference! 

For more information on vitamin D and breast cancer, see our  science briefing

For more prevention tips visit our  Prevention Hub

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