Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice in England suggests.

Public Health England (PHE) advised the government today (Thursday July 21st) that everyone needs an average daily intake of 10μg of vitamin D to protect bone and muscle health. This advice was established using recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) following its recent review of the evidence on vitamin D and overall health. You can read the full report here.

This is the first time that healthy adults, other than pregnant women and high-risk groups, have been advised to take a vitamin D supplement.

Children aged 1 to 4 years are also included in the advice, and should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10μg to meet the vitamin D requirements.

The big news now confirms that babies should get vitamin D drops from birth. Previous advice said that infants should only get vitamin D supplements from six months. Health authorities advise that all babies from birth to 11 months should be given a daily 8.5- 10μg vitamin D supplement to ensure they get enough. They recommend that all infants are exclusively breastfed (EBF) until 6 months.  Data indicates that it is unlikely  exclusively breastfed infants in the UK will maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. This is why this safe intake range is recommended for both exclusively breastfed infants and mixed-fed infants from birth. Infants who are formula fed and receive more than 500ml of infant formula a day do not need any additional vitamin D supplementation, as formula is already fortified with vitamin D.

Here is a summary of additional points outlined in the guidance:

  • The SACN is not able to say exactly how much vitamin D is made through exposure to sunlight in the skin.
  • Public Health England states it is difficult to obtain the daily requirements of 10μg through diet alone. There are foods that naturally contain vitamin D, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D, but limited amounts of the vitamin are found in these foods (such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals).
  • PHE advises that in the spring and summer, most of the UK is able to meet their daily vitamin D requirements through sun exposure and a healthy diet. Those whose skin does not receive enough sun exposure in the warmer months (such as those who wear concealing clothing, those who cover their skin while outside or those who spend most of their time indoors) and those with darker skin are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. These groups should consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round.

Experts describe this advice as a major and important change.

‘This report is a major step forwards. It will help prevent rickets and other significant medical problems for babies and children in the UK.’ said Dr. Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

Follow Ddrops on Twitter to keep up on vitamin D news and research.

You can learn more about Ddrops UK vitamin D drops here and other UK expert recommendations here.