To those of you who enjoy the sunshine and despair at the lack of sunlight during winter months, it probably comes as no surprise that experts say Britain needs more vitamin D.
Government Health Advisors are calling upon the public to increase their daily intake of Vitamin D in a draft report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
It is hoped the report will be adopted by the British Government so that a recommended daily intake of vitamin D can be set across the UK to help educate people in ensuring they get enough.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps the body to maintain strong teeth and bones. It is also thought that it can help prevent cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma and type 2 diabetes – though research around this area is still ongoing. Vitamin D is present in a limited number of fruit and vegetables, along with oily fish, red meat and eggs. Sunlight also produces vitamin D in the body. However, how much vitamin D you receive from the sunlight depends on a range of factors including where you live, what you wear, how often you go on holiday and how long you spend outside. It is generally understood that those who live in the north of Scotland get less sunlight than those who live in the south coast of England.
How much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Those who are between the ages of 11 and 64 should aim for 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day. In the past, it was thought that exposure to sunlight provided this, but more research into this area shows this is now not the case. Once the final report is published and if the reports aims are realised, it is expected that there will be a surge in the number of vitamin D supplement purchases, along with vitamin enriched foods. Experts believe that it is unlikely that people can acquire the recommended intake of vitamin D from food sources alone, but acknowledge that a large number of consumers are reluctant to take supplements. As a result, over the next few years we are likely to see an increase in supermarkets fortifying their foods and drinks with base products that contain higher levels of vitamin D such as specialist yeasts and flours.
In addition, many of us spend less time outdoors in comparison to our older relatives. It is generally accepted most people nowadays don’t receive the same level of sunlight as we did in the past. Modern technology has a large part to play in keeping us indoors, meaning more of us now need to find our vitamin D elsewhere. Particularly at risk are those who spend a large amount of time indoors, including the elderly and infirm as well as those who wear a large amount of clothing for cultural or religious reasons. As a result, experts are encouraging as many people as possible to make the effort to exercise outdoors.
What will recommended daily guidelines mean?
Experts are hopeful that should the new 10 microgram recommendation be adopted by the government, long term health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency such as rickets and hypocalcemic seizures would see a dramatic decrease. They are also hopeful that muscles and bones will stay stronger for longer.
The report is currently out at consultation for a nine week period. After the consultation period, the public’s views and opinions will be taken into consideration and the final version will be published early next year. It is hoped the report will also serve as official health guidance.
For more information about Vitamin D, as well as guidance on safe sun exposure, please visit NHS Choices.