Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for the absorption of calcium by our bones. It can be produced in the body via the action of sunlight on the skin and for this reason it is often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’. In fact, sunlight should be our main source of vitamin D but because Ireland does not get sufficient sunlight for a significant amount of the year we rely on dietary sources of vitamin D to meet our requirements.
Unfortunately, there are very few dietary sources of vitamin D, however. These include oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines), eggs (yolk), and foods fortified with vitamin D such as milks and breakfast cereals. Therefore, with the combination of a lack of sunshine and few dietary sources of vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency is quite common amongst the Irish population.
Vitamin D is transferred from mother to baby during pregnancy and the amount of vitamin D Mum has in her diet will determine the amount her growing baby gets too. Research carried out in Dublin, Cork and Belfast has shown that pregnant women in particular are not getting enough vitamin D to meet their requirements.
Therefore, during pregnancy it important to include vitamin D-rich foods in the diet every day and, along with this advice, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and HSE also recommend taking a daily dietary supplement containing 5µg of vitamin D. Always ask your healthcare professional/pharmacist for advise when choosing a dietary supplement during pregnancy.