Government health advisers are urging everyone to eat more tuna, salmon and eggs or take supplements in order to triple their intake of vitamin D to reduce their risk of bone disease.
Supplements could be necessary in the autumn and winter, when the sun which produces most vitamin D in people’s skin is weaker, Public Health England (PHE) has actually told the government.
It wants average intake of the so-called sunshine vitamin to rise from three micrograms a day to 10 micrograms to help protect people versus both bone and muscle conditions, including rickets in children, cases of which have actually risen in recent years.
PHE wants to see more routine consumption of the few foods which contain vitamin D naturally, and products which have actually been fortified with it and also of over the counter supplements. It has actually asked ministers to prioritise action to prompt a big increase in people taking the vitamin after research by the government’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition (SACN) into vitamin D and health found that one in five people were getting too little.
“If the recommendations are followed this should reduce the risk of bone disease in the UK population. Until now it has actually been assumed that sunlight would certainly provide the vitamin D needed by most of the population all the year round. We now know this is not true because about one in five people in the UK have actually a low blood level of vitamin D,” said Professor Hilary Powers, who led the SACN review, which took five years.
It found credible evidence that consumption of enough vitamin D does reduce the risk of rickets in children, also known as brittle bone disease, and a condition in adults called osteomalacia in adults, which can cause bones to soften, weaken and become deformed. Research elsewhere has actually linked a lack of the vitamin to cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D is formed when sunlight falls on skin. SACN said that because it did not know how much of the vitamin was created that way, everyone should aim to consume 10 micrograms of it a day through the food they eat.
Experts say that dietary patterns make it hard to ensure that people get much vitamin D from foods containing it, which also include sardines, red meat and liver. A limited range of foods are fortified with it, including some yogurts, breakfast cereals, spreads and juice.
“A healthy, balanced diet and short bursts of sunshine will mean most people get all the vitamin D they need in spring and summer. However, everyone will need to consider taking a supplement in the autumn and winter if you don’t eat enough foods that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with it,” said Dr Louis Levy, PHE’s head of nutrition science.
“And those who don’t get out in the sun or always cover their skin when they do, should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.” PHE wants groups who are not exposed to the sun very often, such as those in care homes or the frail elderly, to consider taking Vitamin D tablets all year round.
Powers, a human nutrition expert in the department of oncology and metabolism at Sheffield university, said: “There are very few foods that contain a good source of vitamin D so it is very important to ensure we include a variety of oily fish (such as tuna, salmon and sardines), eggs and certain fortified breakfast cereals in our diets.
“In the 1950s after world war two the government issued a dose of cod liver oil to children every day to supplement their diets with a good source of vitamin D, but it was later believed to be unnecessary. The government now needs to look at the evidence and recommendations in the report and consider a strategy to help people in the UK increase their vitamin D intake”