THE vitamin that makes the news headlines regularly and for all the right reasons is vitamin D.

I continually get asked about the benefits and need to take Vitamin D daily and with its associated links to immunity and severity of illness from Covid, I thought I would shine some light on this today.

Vitamin D is essential for health and it affects many systems in our bodies. We are able to get tiny amounts of vitamin D from food, examples being fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines), eggs, orange juice, mushrooms, some breakfast cereals, yoghurts and cow’s or soy milk.

However, most of our vitamin D comes from the sun – something we don’t get huge amounts of for much of the year here in Glasgow.

It is a unique vitamin in that it’s the only one our body relies on which is gained by sun exposure.

The sun’s UV rays hit our skin and then an intricate process ensues, converting the rays to vitamin D.

It is thanks to vitamin D that we can absorb another very important mineral from our gut and that is calcium. We need both for healthy bones, joints and muscles.

Over the years we have been seeing more and more cases of vitamin D deficiency and with it affecting one in five people, it is essential we understand why we need to keep on top of this because it is preventable.

There are several causes for vitamin D deficiency.

In winter months especially we spend a lot of the day without sun exposure which increases our risk but this is higher for those who are elderly, housebound or live a sedentary lifestyle, for those who cover up their skin due to cultural reasons and those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

These scenarios warrant regular vitamin D intake in a supplement form which can be picked up from any pharmacy or supermarket.

Those pregnant, breastfeeding and children under four also require regular supplements. Other risk factors include people who are obese, have long-term health problems affecting the gut, kidneys or liver and even certain medications can impact vitamin D levels.

While vitamin D deficiency can affect our bones and muscles, it can also affect energy levels leading to fatigue, memory function, mental health, can be a risk factor for heart disease, and can even impact our immunity which is what are continually learning more about.

Often people with low vitamin D levels feel run down and prone to catching more common infections.

A recent study was conducted on over 445,000 people from the UK, US and Sweden to further explore the link between vitamin D and Covid.

It found that in those taking vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and multivitamins or probiotics, the risk of being infected with Covid was lower than in those who did not. It also found this to be the case in women and not in men.

Similarly, over the last year we have seen possible associations between low levels of vitamin D and more severe outcomes of Covid-19, but we do not yet have the evidence to tell us whether low levels of vitamin D cause such outcomes. This remains very much a current topic of interest and an area of active research.

What can we learn then and what should we do? Well, the advice is that everyone should take a daily vitamin D supplement in winter months and unless you are confident you are getting lots of daylight exposure, I would recommend there is no harm to be taking this supplement all year round – we live in Scotland after all and the further north you go, the less sunlight we get.

Especially to those mentioned above who are pregnant, breastfeeding, children under four, adults with chronic health problems, elderly or housebound and people of colour – I suggest taking it every day all year round.

It is cheap to get, it is simple to take and its benefits are wide-ranging. Alongside this though, ensure that you keep yourself safe in the sun but do try and get out for some daily dose of sun exposure which will not just boost your vitamin D levels but will infuse you with joy too.