Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice in England suggests.
In a report, Public Health England (PHE) advises that everyone needs an average daily intake of 10μg of vitamin D to protect bone and muscle health. This advice is established using recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) following its recent review of the evidence on vitamin D and overall health.
Previously, only pregnant women and high-risk groups, in the UK have been advised to take a vitamin D supplement. This recommendation expands the vitamin D advice to the wider general population.
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 guidelines confirm that breastfed babies should get vitamin D drops from birth. Health authorities advise that breastfed babies from birth to one year should be given a daily 8.5- 10μg vitamin D supplement to ensure they get enough. Breastfeeding is strongly encouraged, with recommendations that all infants are exclusively breastfed until 6 months. Data indicates that it is unlikely that exclusively breastfed infants in the UK will maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. 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.
Additional points outlined in the SACN guidance include:
- Exact vitamin D levels made through exposure to sunlight in the skin are difficult to predict and measure
- It is difficult to obtain daily requirements of 10μg through diet alone. There are foods that naturally contain vitamin D such as oily fish and eggs, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D such as some cereals, but often limited amounts of the vitamin are found in these foods.
- In the spring and summer, most of the UK population should be able to meet their daily vitamin D requirements through sun exposure and a healthy diet.
- Pregnant women should take a supplement containing 10μg vitamin D all year long.
- Other groups of people in the UK should also consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round. These include those who may not receive enough sun exposure in the warmer months making them more at risk for vitamin D deficiency. People who:
- spend most of their time indoors
- wear concealing clothing
- cover their skin while outside or use sunscreen
- have darker skin tone
Experts describe the SACN advice as a major and important health advice.
“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.
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*updated May 31 2018