Vitamin D

Of all the vitamins, it seems like vitamin D has had the most air time of late. Certainly in our clinics, it’s the one patients seem to ask most about – are they getting enough, how do they know if they are getting enough and do they need to take supplements?

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Vitamin D helps our bodies to regulate the crucial minerals Calcium and Phosphate in our bodies. We need these to keep our bones, teeth, nerves and muscles healthy.

A lack of vitamin D causes bone abnormalities – you might have heard of rickets? Rickets is a disease in children caused by a vitamin D deficiency.

For most of us, we actually get our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. This means here in the UK, it can be a challenge to get enough sun during the long winter months. We all know the dangers of sun exposure and it’s a sad fact that skin cancers seem to be on the rise. There is a real delicate balance between enabling the sun to provide us with enough vitamin D and over-exposing our skin to the sun and increasing our risk of sun-related skin damage.

It is recommended that to allow enough exposure of the skin to the sun, that our forearms, hands or lower legs are uncovered, for short periods of time, without sunscreen. There is no set amount of time we need in the sun – and this is because we all make vitamin D at different rates. Darker skin colours seem to take longer to produce vitamin D and will need longer in the sun than those with lighter skin colours.

Being in the sun enough to cause the skin to burn is never recommended – and if you do start to feel burnt – you need to cover up or apply a good strength sunscreen (at least SPF 15). Increased time in the sun or allowing the skin to burn can increase the risk of developing sun-related skin damage or skin cancers.

There are some foods which can provide vitamin D such as red meat, liver, fortified foods, cereals and oily fish such as salmon or mackerel. However if you follow a diet that does not include meat – it can be especially challenging to make sure you get enough vitamin D.

Children over the age of one and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

Recently, the guidelines on vitamin D supplementation changed. Here in the UK it is recommended that babies from birth to the age of one are given a daily supplement containing up to 10 micrograms of vitamin D. However if your baby is fed by formula, most of these have vitamin D and as such they would not need supplementation until they were having less than a pint (around 500ml) of formula feed. Children up to the age of four should also be given a daily supplement.
There is now advice that adults should also have a supplement during winter months, when we are less able to get our fix of sunshine.

It is also worth considering those who are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency – and primarily these are people who do not get much sun exposure. Whether that be due to immobility or being housebound, or those who choose to cover up most of their body with clothing.

 

 

 

You can get too much vitamin D – and this can cause an increased build up of calcium. Although we need calcium to keep our bones strong, actually too much can weaken our bones and cause heart and kidney problems.

Vitamin A

In a series of short posts we will be looking at crucial vitamins for our body – today we’re looking at Vitamin A.

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Mango

You might know Vitamin A as retinol, and is helpful for your body’s natural defence against illness as well as keeping our skin healthy. It’s also important in aiding us see in low light.

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Eggs

 

Men need around 0.7mg a day and women around 0.6mg, mango and apricots as well as eggs and cheese are good sources for vitamin A to include in your diet.

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Apricots

It may be possible to have too much vitamin A with studies suggesting that sustained high doses might lead to increase risk of osteoporosis – where bones break more easily.

 

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If you’re pregnant, larger amounts of vitamin A can also harm your unborn baby so it’s best to avoid foods that contain liver as these are particularly high in vitamin A.

World Kidney Day 2017 : Kidney Disease and Obesity

Annually, a global event is held to help drive awareness of kidney problems and how we can all help to protect these vital organs. This year the theme is ‘Kidney disease and obesity’.

Our kidneys are organs like no other in the body, acting as a filtration system for our blood helping us to eliminate toxins as well as playing a crucial role in other functions such as controlling blood pressure.

It’s a myth that kidney disease only effects elderly people, and whilst it is true that some forms of kidney problems are more common as we age, kidney disease can strike at any age.

 

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So how does obesity link to kidney disease?

It is a sad fact that obesity levels are on the rise across the world, in all age ranges. Carrying extra weight places increased pressure on so many different bodily systems – including our kidneys. Patients who are obese are at an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure – both of which can, in turn, increase the risk of developing kidney troubles. It is estimated that by 2025, 18% of all men and 21% of all women worldwide will be obese.

What is more worrying to us as doctors is the rate of childhood obesity and the alarming frequency we see it in our clinics. Children are developing problems, normally associated with adults, at a younger and younger age. Radical action is needed to ensure that we are setting up our future generations for the healthiest possible lives.

One of our main passions in our work is promoting the preventability of disease. We know that there are many things in life, and in health, that we have no control over, but if we can help to reduce the factors that increase our risk of illness we have at least taken a step in the right direction.
Obesity is largely preventable. It isn’t easy, but it is preventable. 

 

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One of the key themes of this World Kidney Day is to promote the achievability and affordability of healthy choices in helping us to tackle the global obesity epidemic. As practicing GP’s we often hear from patients that it costs more to eat healthily, and there is some truth in that. When you can get a burger in minutes for less than a couple of pounds it is too easy to see why we as a global community battle our weight.

However being informed about healthy choices, and armed with a little forward planning, it is possible to eat well without breaking the bank. Celebrity chefs including the likes of Jamie Oliver often provide the breakdown of a cost per head per meal – and these fall well below the cost of a take away.

Quick Kidney Facts (www.worldkidneyday.co.uk)

  • Our kidneys will filter around 180 litres of blood every day. That’s the same amount as just under 55 cans of an average sized canned drink.
  • Kidney failure can be fatal without dialysis or transplant
  • 64,000 people in the UK are currently being treated for kidney failure
  • 3,300 kidney transplants take place in the UK each year but over 5,200 are still waiting
  • Every year in the UK there are an estimated 40,000 premature deaths related to chronic kidney disease

 

Why not take a few moments to read more about world kidney day on their website?

 

–Alex