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Should we take vitamin D supplements in winter?
Especially in the cold season, many people use vitamin D supplements. But how important is the additional intake of the so-called “sun vitamin” in winter? According to experts, such funds are only useful for a few people.
Inadequate vitamin D supply in Germany
Studies have shown that the vitamin D supply in Germany is poor. Not only adults, but also many children and adolescents show lower values. If there is actually a vitamin D deficiency, taking dietary supplements - after medical clarification - is advisable in many cases. But some people take such preparations without having them examined beforehand. Experts warn that this does not make sense.
No protection against chronic diseases
Some people take supplements because they think they are doing something good for their health and preventing disease. The Stiftung Warentest indicates on its website that this does not really make sense.
In the past few years, scientists have evaluated hundreds of studies on the question of whether vitamin D protects against further chronic diseases and apparently found no convincing effect.
For example, an older statement by the German Society for Endocrinology said that vitamin D was unlikely to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Sun exposure in the cold months is not enough
Vitamin D is also known as the "sun vitamin" because the human body produces about 80 to 90 percent of it under the influence of sunlight. The high-energy UVB rays that also tan the skin are decisive.
However, not everyone produces the same amount of vitamin D - it depends on age, skin thickness and skin type.
According to the Stiftung Warentest, the general rule is that sunshine in Germany from October to March is not enough for people to produce enough vitamin D. But it is not the case that the skin does not produce any vitamin D in autumn and winter.
"The body also forms a little vitamin D if you go for a walk for about 20 to 30 minutes every day in winter with a free face and without gloves," explained the media spokesman for the German Society for Endocrinology, Professor Helmut Schatz.
But especially in the warm months, it is important to soak up enough sun. Because under the spring and summer sun, the vitamin D stores can be easily replenished, since the body stores the fat-soluble vitamin D in the fat and muscle tissue as well as in the liver.
This stock is usually enough to get through the dark season without any symptoms of deficiency.
Only a small part of the need can be met through nutrition
As the Stiftung Warentest writes, food can only cover a small part of the vitamin D requirement, about ten to 20 percent. Accordingly, there are only a few foods that contain a significant amount of vitamin D.
By far most of it is in oily fish such as salmon and herring. Liver, egg yolk and some mushrooms such as chanterelles and mushrooms provide vitamin D to a much lesser extent.
According to health experts, those who have insufficient vitamin D levels in the winter months due to insufficient sun exposure may be able to use food supplements.
However, pills with vitamin D are not advisable for everyone, as experts from the Lower Saxony Chamber of Pharmacists warned.
Basically, not too much of it should be taken. Because according to the drug commission of the German medical profession (AkdÄ), an overdose with vitamin D preparations can also occur.
It is also problematic that many of these products are not recommended, as an investigation commissioned by "Öko-Test" has shown.
Dietary supplement for high-risk groups
"Healthy, active people hardly benefit from vitamin D supplements," writes the Stiftung Warentest. "But they can make sense for certain risk groups."
This includes people aged 65 and over, as the ability of the skin to produce vitamin D is reduced in many people of this age. In some cases, it then only produces half as much vitamin D as in previous years.
Even younger people who rarely get fresh air due to illness can use vitamin D supplements after consulting a doctor.
Under these conditions, the Stiftung Warentest classifies such agents as suitable for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Vitamin D pills can also be useful for certain other diseases: small bowel diseases can affect the absorption of vitamin D from the intestine.
Chronic liver disease, renal insufficiency, parathyroid weakness or certain medications such as anti-epileptics can also interfere with vitamin D formation.
Never take vitamin D supplements on suspicion
In addition, the Child Health Foundation, in agreement with scientific organizations of pediatricians, recommends:
From the first week of life until the second experienced early summer, i.e. depending on the time of birth for a period of one to one and a half years, all babies in Germany should receive tablets or drops with 400 to 500 units of vitamin D 3 daily in addition to breast milk or baby food .
Vitamin D administration should best be combined with fluoride prophylaxis against caries. Premature babies with a birth weight of less than 1,500 grams should receive a higher dose of 800 to 1,000 units of vitamin D daily in the first months of life.
Basically, the following applies: “Vitamin D preparations should not be taken on suspicion. They are only recommended if insufficient care has been proven by a doctor, ”said Antje Gahl from the German Nutrition Society (DGE).
The doctor may then determine the current vitamin D status. However, those who are legally insured are only reimbursed for this blood test if there is reasonable suspicion of a defect, such as osteoporosis.
In individual cases, the doctor and patient must decide whether the test is useful. Usually, the patient bears the cost of the examination of around 20 to 30 euros themselves. (ad)