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Are office workers getting enough vitamin D?

Sunshine

The dark days of winter have long been a trial for the UK’s office workers – after all, who really enjoys travelling to work and back home in the dark?

But now fears are growing that Britain’s office workers are seriously short of vitamin D because of their limited opportunities to spend time outside.

A study carried out earlier this year indicated that high proportions of shift workers, healthcare employees and office workers have dangerously low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ which the body produces with the help of sun.

In a review of more than 50,000 patients in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was highest among shift workers (80 per cent), closely followed by office-based workers at 77 per cent and healthcare students at 72 per cent.

The study, conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada, concluded that people who work indoors don’t expose themselves to sunlight often enough.

In the UK, new draft guidelines from Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition suggest that we should all take a 10 microgram Vitamin D pill daily.

This is a move away from the current government recommendation that only pregnant women, children and old people should take supplements.

The new guidelines follow similar advice earlier this year from NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) which suggested that there is a ‘hidden epidemic’ of vitamin D deficiency.

So, if you work in an office, now is the time to start popping those vitamins to help avoid bone problems, cardio-vascular disease and seasonal depression. You can buy pills from health shops or your GP, or even turn to the old-fashioned remedy of cod liver oil.

Symptoms of borderline vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Headaches
  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation or diarrhoea

Severe deficiency can cause bone problems (and rickets in children).

You can boost your vitamin D levels a little bit with the right foods, although getting plenty of sun in the warmer months is the best solution by far.

Foods to boost vitamin D levels include oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, eggs and plenty of milk.

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