By James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporter

Families forced to stay inside due to coronavirus should make sure they are still getting their daily dose of ‘sunshine vitamin’.

Earlier this month (March) the Government announced plans to write to 1.5 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people urging them to stay at home for three months as part of ‘shielding’ measures to protect them from COVID-19, while millions of others are practising social distancing and staying indoors except for essential trips outdoors.

And nutrition experts are advising anyone likely to spend long periods indoors over the coming weeks and months to consider taking vitamin D supplements.

The hormone promotes healthy bones, muscles and teeth, among other benefits and for most people is absorbed simply by walking around in the sunshine.

Dr Linia Patel, dietitian and British Dietetic Association (BDA) spokeswoman

“Vitamin D is very important for keeping a strong immune system, for mood and general wellness,” said Linia Patel, a dietitian and sports nutritionist and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

“A lot of us in the UK are deficient in it and that is why the guidance is that from autumn to spring everyone should be on a supplement of 400 international units, or 10 micrograms, per day.

“The guidelines are for autumn and winter because there’s less sunshine then, but if people are stuck indoors and don’t have a garden it is harder to get vitamin D.

“If you’re not vulnerable and you can do exercise try and go when it gets sunny because you may be able to get your vitamin D then.”

About 20 minutes spent outside between about 9am-4pm, ideally as early as possible to minimise any skin cancer risks, is enough for most people to get their supply of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is present in some food, such as oily fish and eggs, as well as some foods which have been specially fortified with it, but sunshine is needed to ‘convert it to the form the body uses’.

Vitamin D supplements can come in drops, tablets or sprays and, as it is fat-soluble, Patel suggests it is taken with a meal containing fat to aid absorption.

The BDA recommends ‘a healthy balanced diet in order to support immune function’.
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