Vitamin D

Since you are in Sweden… Have you ever felt like you could literally do NOTHING? Do you feel tired all day, or that you can’t get up from bed in the morning even after a good rest, and you lack all your energy… You probably are suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D

First of all, what is vitamin D?

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. In humans, the most important compounds in this group are vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).

molecule

How do we get vitamin D?

Both types can be ingested from the diet and supplements, but the main natural source of vitamin D is the dermal synthesis. The synthesis is dependent on sun exposure (specifically UV radiation) and metabolises cholesterol (7-dehydrocholesterol) into vitamin D.

Lack of vitamin D

A lack of vitamin D can make you feel tired and without energy, and sometimes also depressed. It is an essential vitamin for your calcium balance, your skeletal health and your immune system. Recent studies have also shown a link between vitamin D deficiencies and certain diseases such as diabetes, MS, cardiovascular diseases and cancer (although it is still unsure if you can reduce the risk of these diseases by taking vitamin D).

tired

The main problem in Sweden

During winter the hours of sun are so few, and normally during working hours, that we don’t get any sunlight in our skin.

 

If you sum to that that we are in Gothenburg, also known as the “little London”, where seeing the sun is a miracle sometimes, the probabilities to get sunlight decrease.

greysky
Eternal grey sky over Gothenburg.

If you are lucky and can go out on a sunny day, first of all, probably you will be dressed like this:

winterclothes

so almost no skin to receive sunlight. But even if you would get it, the UV rays of the winter sun here are not even strong enough to be able to produce vitamin D.

What can we do?

There are only a few dietary sources that could provide a vitamin D intake. The most important are the fatty fish species like salmon, tuna or sardines.  That is why it is recommended to eat one of those at least once a week. Other sources are fish oil, egg yolk or beef liver.

salmon

As you can see, the options are not that wide. That is why we need supplements industrially produced. It can come in form of just vitamin D tablets or multivitamin tablets. Both can be found in every supermarket or pharmacy. I personally take during winter every morning the ones that are only vitamin D, they have a nice orange flavour. You start feeling much better after just a couple of days taking them.

tablet

The third option is to just go and travel to places further south, but I do that every Christmas to Spain and still I feel it again after just a few more weeks here. And it is also a much more expensive option.

Risk population

Why Swedes don’t seem to care that much about it? There is a scientific answer to that!

Well, as you could imagine, they are adapted to their location. The lighter the skin is, the easiest is for that people to produce vitamin D with a minimal exposure to UV light. Higher amounts of melanin (what makes the skin darker) limit the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin, and the needed amount of time of exposure to the sun would be much more.

That is the reason why, for example, I feel the lack of sun quite easily, and my blond friend in the picture would probably live in Sweden without feeling the effects:

blondevsbrunette2

 

Now you know what was happening if you were feeling all that! And it has an easy solution. Recover your energy! 😀

If you want to be more informed about it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D

And related with Sweden:

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6120407

http://www.foodandnutritionresearch.net/index.php/fnr/article/view/20089

http://www.goteborgdaily.se/knowledge-city/half-of-sweden-may-suffer-from-vitamin-d-deficiency

https://www.stralsakerhetsmyndigheten.se/In-English/About-the-Swedish-Radiation-Safety-Authority1/Enjoy-the-sun-safely/The-sun-and-vitamin-D/

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