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Experts recommend everyone take vitamin D supplements

PHE recommends supplements in autumn and winter

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Public Health England (PHE) is recommending that everyone take vitamin D supplements throughout the autumn and winter to help boost their health, in new advice issued today.

The advice is based on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) following its review of the evidence on vitamin D and health, also published today.

PHE said taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily would help protect bone, teeth and muscle health.

Data from the most recent PHE National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008 to 2012) showed that 23% of adults aged 19 to 64 years, 21% of adults aged 65 years and above and 22% of children aged 11 to 18 years had low levels of vitamin D in their blood.

Supplements were needed in the autumn and winter, said the agency, because the main source of vitamin D, which is made in the skin by the action of sunlight, was lacking in those seasons.

In the spring and summer, it was estimated that there were sufficient levels of sunlight for the skin to produce enough vitamin D – alongside a healthy, balanced diet.

During autumn and winter, everyone needed to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D and because it was sometimes difficult for people to meet the daily recommendation from consuming foods naturally containing vitamin D, such as oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks, they should consider taking a daily supplement of the vitamin.

People who had little or no exposure to the sun at anytime were at risk of vitamin D deficiency and needed to take a supplement throughout the year, added PHE.

In addition, ethnic minority groups with dark skin, from African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer and therefore should consider taking a supplement all year round.

The advice for children aged 1 to 4 years was to take a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement, and all babies under 1 year should have a daily 8.5 to 10 microgram vitamin D supplement.

The SACN review says earlier research it considered for its review had found that vitamin D3 supplementation during pregnancy reduced primary care visits for acute respiratory infections during early childhood in a high dose vitamin D group.

Dr Louis Levy, PHE’s head of nutrition science at PHE, said: “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.”

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