The government has now publicly recommended that many people should be taking a supplement containing Vitamin D. This has come as quite a refreshing surprise for several reasons.
It is currently extremely difficult to tell consumers anything about supplements thanks to restrictions from the EFSA. Regardless of what the wider scientific community believes the effects of certain nutrients are, if the EFSA don’t agree then you’re not allowed to say it. This means that we are often not allowed to tell consumers why they would take a specific supplement, or even provide them with the information they would need to make an informed decision themselves.
The UK also has advertising regulations which explicitly state that:
“no marketing communication may suggest that a widespread vitamin or mineral deficiency exists.”
So whether or not it is true, you are still not allowed to advise consumers that they may be at risk of deficiency.
These factors are what make the Department of Health’s new guidance so astonishing. A statement from the DoH specifically says:
“We are aware that some of the UK population may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is a concern, particularly for at-risk groups, such as pregnant women, infants and young children”
This sounds a lot like a widespread vitamin deficiency to me?
Last year the Chief Medical Officers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, wrote to healthcare professionals to increase awareness of this important issue, and recommended the use of vitamin D supplements for at risk groups.
To support these recommendations the Department of Health has issued new guidance for Vitamin D supplements which has been outlined below:
Infants and Young Children:
The Department of Health or UK Health Departments or The Chief Medical Officer recommends, all infants and young children aged 6 months to 5 years take a daily supplement containing 7 to 8.5μg of vitamin D. This product should not be given to infants consuming 500ml or more of infant formula a day.
Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women:
[The Department of Health or UK Health Departments or The Chief Medical Officer recommend(s)] all pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a daily supplement containing 10μg of vitamin D.
People Aged 65 Years and Over
[The Department of Health or UK Health Departments or The Chief Medical Officer recommend(s)] that people aged 65 years and over should take a daily supplement of 10μg of vitamin D.
People Not Exposed to Much Sun:
The Department of Health or UK Health Departments or The Chief Medical Officer recommends that people who are not exposed to much sun, for example those who cover their skin, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods should take a daily supplement of 10μg of vitamin D.
So What Can We Take From This?
Well, basically that the UK department of health recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement if you fall into any of the following categories:
With many of us working in office environments it seems likely that we may be exposed to much less sunlight then we should be.
At a time when it feels like the EC are making it harder than ever to give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions, we should applaud the Department of Health for their recognition of the importance of Vitamin D. Furthermore it is refreshing that they are advocating the sensible use of supplements. Whether or not these recommendations are sufficient will of course be a point of some debate.