What is Vitamin D?
Our main source of vitamin D is from the action of sunlight on our skin. When our skin is exposed to the sun's UVB light, our bodies can synthesise vitamin D3, so it is the most "natural" form; hence it's given the name 'the sunshine vit', it is our primary source of vitamin D, as we get roughly 90% of our intake by exposing our skin to sunlight.
During autumn and winter (from October until end of March) the sun isn't strong enough in the UK to produce vitamin D, this means we have to rely on getting it vitamin D from the food we eat. During spring and summer, we are strongly advised to protect our skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet light, by covering up and wearing sunblock, so we now need to question whether we are getting enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. Both are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is found naturally in a small number of foods, including oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks. These are not so great if you follow a plant-based diet! Vitamin D can also be found in fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and fat spreads.
However, it's difficult for us to get the recommended amount of vitamin D from food alone. The government suggest we should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter months.
Vitamin D advice for children?
It's recommended that children aged one to four years should have a daily supplement of 10mcg vitamin D all year round. As a precaution, all babies under one year should have a daily 8.5-10mcg vitamin D supplement to make sure they get enough. However, babies who have more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day don't need a vitamin D supplement as the formula is already fortified.
What is vitamin D2 and D3?
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is derived from plants and is more difficult for humans to metabolise. Plants produce this form of Vitamin D when exposed to UV light (in much the same way as our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D). The most common example is wild mushrooms or farmed mushrooms produced under UV light. Dairy-free milk (including soya, coconut, and almond milk) is often boosted with D2.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is easily absorbed into the body and therefore, a great supplement and comes from two sources.
One source of D3 comes from sheep's wool (lanolin). Making supplements from sheep's wool is quite simple. The sheepskin naturally produces lanolin which is a water-resistant layer to their wool and acts like a sponge naturally soaking up vitamin D from the sun's ultraviolet light. Once the mature sheep have been sheared the lanolin-infused wool immediately undergoes an intense washing process. Separating the fatty components, leaving behind the crude lanolin, further washing increases the purity. Finally, you are left with crystalised lanolin. This form of D3 is easily absorbed into the human body and tends to be the cheapest form of D3, but is not suitable for vegans.
The good news is there is a plant-based form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which comes from lichen!
Lichen is a moss-like organism that exists as a composite of fungus and algae. It can survive in a variety of climates and is easy to farm sustainably.
Lichen naturally contains vitamin D3, which is the same form found in lanolin. By accumulating vitamin D3 as it grows, lichen oil is a viable, cost-effective form of vitamin D3 that doesn't involve animal cruelty, which means lichen-based vitamin D is entirely vegan.
Raw lichen quickly loses its vitamin content after harvesting, so it's usually processed where it's picked to ensure the oils have optimal vitamin D levels. After harvesting, lichen oil is refined and purified to remove traces of pathogens and improve its potency before being dosed into supplements.
We are happy to say all the vitamin D3 in our Healthipops is from lichen!
Don't forget to add a bit of extra vitamin D to your diet, when eating mushrooms, pop them on the windowsill beforehand as they love to absorb vitamin D from the sunshine too!