About nine in 10 Belgians are deficient in vitamin D during the winter, due to a lack of sunlight. But according to health experts, there is no need to start taking vitamin D supplements.
Belgium has been experiencing a severe sunshine deficit since the turn of the year with just a few hours of sunlight recorded in the whole of January and February across the country.
Such a lack of sunlight can have an impact on our bodies. Due to the lack of sun, an overwhelming majority of Belgians suffer from a vitamin D deficiency.
Even taking long winter walks can’t produce an adequate amount of vitamin D as the winter sun in Belgium is too weak. Typically, from October to March, the right kind of UV rays that our bodies use to produce vitamin D is lacking in Belgium, and although the vitamin is found in most people’s diets, it is not enough.
In addition, the reserve stock that we build up during the summer and store in our livers and our fats turns out to be insufficient to bridge the long winter months. To fight the deficiency that occurs in winter, people should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, in an ideal world.
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The mildest effects of vitamin D deficiency can be tiredness and lack of energy, symptoms many associates with the general winter malaise. But vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and bone fractures. Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other diseases. In children, it can cause rickets, a rare disease that causes the bones to become soft and bend.
With such bleak prospects, it is no wonder that many people believe the best course of action is to take vitamin D supplements. However, most experts say that supplements can be useful for people in certain risk groups such as pregnant women, the elderly, people with osteoporosis, and children under one year, but for everyone else, their benefits are negligible.
"No health benefits have been demonstrated for healthy adults to date," according to a statement by Health and Science, a science platform of the Flemish government that focuses on sound scientific research or Evidence-Based Medicine. "Just because vitamin D levels in the blood are low in winter doesn't mean extra vitamin D improves health. In addition, many foods are fortified with the vitamin."
Experts from Health and Science even call vitamin D supplements for healthy adults "pointless." There is also no benefit in preventing certain diseases or cancers, it adds. "Studies also show no demonstrable benefit in the areas of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, muscle diseases, tuberculosis, cancer and pregnancies," the statement reads.
Many adults buy supplements containing vitamin D, according to Health and Science magazine, because many observational studies show a link between vitamin and health: "But these links are not cause-and-effect relationships," it reads.
Experts also claim that too much vitamin D can actually be bad for you, so most recommend not taking any at all unless you are part of a high-risk group.