This section describes the government advice for vitamin D. For information on food sources of vitamin D and an example of a day's menu plan that meets the vitamin D recommendation, please see the attachment at the bottom of this article.

According to national surveys in the UK, across the population approximately 1 in 5 people have low vitamin D levels (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/l). Low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of poor bone and muscle health, for example.

  • increased risk of conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults
  • falls
  • poor muscle strength.
 What are Rickets and Osteomalacia?

Children with severe vitamin D deficiency may have soft skull or leg bones. Their legs may look curved (bow-legged). They may also complain of bone pains and muscle pains or muscle weakness. This condition is known as rickets.

In adults severe deficiency of vitamin D  may cause pain and weakness known as osteomalacia. Muscle weakness may cause difficulty in climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or can lead to the person walking with a waddling pattern.

 

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), the committee of experts that advises Government on matters relating to diet, nutrition and health has looked at  the scientific evidence. In their report, Vitamin D and Health, SACN recommended an intake for all people aged 4 and above of 10 µg (micrograms)/day. For infants and younger children an intake of 8.5-10 µg/day was recommended.

Public Health England (PHE), on the basis of SACN’s extensive review, has issued advice for the general public on vitamin D,  on how these recommendations may be met in practice.

The new government recommendations on vitamin D supplements are set out in the table below.

General Population

Between late March/early April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D. As such, they might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

From October to March everyone over the age of five will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D. Since vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone. So everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 µg of vitamin D.

 
Special Groups
 
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Between late March/early April and September, the majority of pregnant and breastfeeding women will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D. As such, they might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

From October to March, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.

Infants and Young Children

All breastfed infants 0 – 1 years. As a precaution, it is recommended that infants from birth to one year of age, whether exclusively or partially breastfed, should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 µg of vitamin D.

Infants fed infant formula should not be given a vitamin D supplement unless they are receiving less than 500 ml (about a pint) of formula a day.

All children aged 1 to 4 years of age should be given a daily supplement containing 10 µg of vitamin D.

People aged 65 years or over

No special recommendations for those aged 65 and above have been set; the new recommendations for the general population apply.

People with very little or no sun exposure

People with very little or no sunshine exposure should take a daily supplement containing 10 µg vitamin D throughout the year.

For example

  • People who are seldom outdoors such as frail or housebound individuals and those who are confined indoors (e.g. in institutions such as care homes).
  • People who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdoors.
Minority ethnic groups

People from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in summer so they should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 µg vitamin D throughout the year.

The SACN report Vitamin D and Health is available on http://bit.ly/29X9GoW
The new government advice on vitamin D is available on http://bit.ly/2aekuRe

 



 For more information on the sources used in this text, please contact postbox@nutrition.org.uk

Last reviewed October 2016. Next review due October 2019.

 

Attachments:

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