New advice recommends supplementation
For years, experts have warned of a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency. The Government’s own data show that 20-50 per cent of the population have blood levels below the minimum needed for normal bone health. Now official advice from Public Health England on vitamin D has been changed to recommend autumn and winter supplementation for all, while at risk groups including the elderly, young children, pregnant and lactating women, individuals with darker skins, anyone who is not regularly exposed to summer sunshine or who habitually wears clothing that covers their skin whilst outdoors, should take vitamin D supplements all year round. The new radical advice will ensure that most Brits stand a chance of meeting their requirements for this important nutrient which may help to reduce negative health impacts throughout life including the osteoporosis time bomb.
Vitamin D deficiency is a major health issue in the UK that should not be underestimated given the vital role of vitamin D in supporting normal bone development and maintenance as well as effects on immune function and heart health.
Over the last decade, vitamin D levels in the population have reached crisis point with up to half of people deficient in at-risk groups including lower income communities, housebound elderly and people from ethnic minorities. This will exacerbate the rising incidence of osteoporosis and rickets seen in this country over the past decade. Given the new recommendation to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily, it is highly unlikely that this would be achieved by diet alone due to the limited numbers of foods naturally rich in vitamin D. For example, you would need a large portion of oily fish plus three eggs every day of the week to reach 10 micrograms. As only a third of people eat oily fish on a regular basis, this is not going to happen.
It makes sense, therefore, to ask the public to take several more achievable steps towards adequate vitamin D status i.e. multivitamins and fish oil supplements that include vitamin D, and the inclusion of foods high in vitamin D like oily fish, eggs, red meat and fortified foods. Multivitamins, fish oils and single vitamin D supplements are widely available and the cost is not prohibitive. It can cost pennies a day which is a worthwhile expense to invest in one’s own health.