British Nutrition Foundation survey reveals 49% adults unaware of UK Government guidelines for vitamin D

28 Oct 2021, London: A survey commissioned by the British Nutrition Foundation reveals that almost half of British adults (49%) are not aware of the Government’s recommendation to consider taking vitamin D supplements during the autumn and winter months.

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28 Oct 2021, London: A new survey commissioned by the British Nutrition Foundation revealed that almost half of British adults (49%) are not aware of the Government’s recommendation to consider taking vitamin D supplements during the autumn and winter months.

Vitamin D is essential for keeping our bones and muscles healthy, and also for supporting normal immunity. While we can get some vitamin D from our diet, the main source is sunlight exposure on the skin.  During autumn and winter in the UK, UV levels from the sun are not strong enough for us to make vitamin D in our skin.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that about 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. The Government advises everyone to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms from October-March to help keep bones and muscles healthy*.

Conducted by YouGov, the survey looked at people’s awareness and habits in relation to vitamin D.  

The survey also found that:

  • 32% were aware of the Government recommendation on vitamin D supplements including the daily amount recommended and 19% had heard of the recommendation but were not aware that the daily amount suggested is 10 micrograms.

 

  • When it came to taking vitamin D supplements**
  • 26% say they take vitamin D supplements all year round
  • 8% say they take vitamin D supplements for most of the year
  • 8% say they take them during the autumn and winter months (October to March)
  • while 15% take them ‘inconsistently’
  • 39% say they never take vitamin D supplements

 

  • Revealing why people do or don’t take supplements: Of those who reported taking vitamin D supplements:
    • 40% say they take vitamin D for their general health
    • 36% take supplements because they don’t think they get enough vitamin D from their diet and/or sunlight
    • 27% say they take vitamin D to keep their bones healthy
    • Only 10% say they take vitamin D in order to follow the Government guidelines

 

  • While we currently don’t have robust evidence that vitamin D can reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, 21% of respondents who take supplements say they take vitamin D to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Of the respondents who say they never take vitamin D supplements, 31% think they already get enough vitamin D from diet and/or sunlight, while 28% say they aren’t aware of the benefits of taking them.
  • When asked about purchasing vitamin D fortified foods, the majority of respondents (74%) say they do not buy any foods or drinks because they are fortified with vitamin D.

 

Commenting on the findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation said, “A balanced diet can give us most of the nutrients we need. But vitamin D is an exception because our main source is UV exposure from sunlight on skin and there are relatively few rich dietary sources. We have seen little improvement in vitamin D status in the population in recent years. So, it is really important that we raise awareness of the need to consider supplements from October to March to make sure we are getting the vitamin D we need to keep us healthy.”

 

Notes

*The UK Government recommends that adults and children over 4 years old consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D from October to March. People at risk of vitamin D deficiency and infants and children up to 4 years old are advised to take a vitamin D supplement all year round. Further details are available here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/

** ‘Vitamin D supplements’ in the survey could include tablets, gummies, capsules, drops etc. containing vitamin D alone and/or as part of a combined or multivitamin (e.g. vitamin D and calcium, vitamin D as part of a multivitamin, cod liver oil with vitamin D or 'bone health' vitamins).

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2072 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 7th October 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults

For more information, interviews and images please contact Eisha Sharma at e.sharma@nutrition.org.uk / 07424 747671

About the British Nutrition Foundation

Connecting people, food and science for better nutrition and healthier lives

The British Nutrition Foundation, a registered charity, delivers impartial, authoritative and evidence-based information on food and nutrition. Its core purpose is translating evidence-based nutrition science in engaging and actionable ways, working with an extensive network of contacts across academia, health care, education, communication and the food chain. A core strength of the Foundation is its governance structure (described in the Articles of Association), which comprises a Board of Trustees, Advisory Committee, Scientific Committee, Editorial Advisory Board, Education Working Groups and a Nominations Committee, on which serve senior/experienced individuals from many walks of life. The composition is deliberately weighted towards the scientific ‘academic’ community, based in universities and research institutes, and those from education, finance, media, communications and HR backgrounds. 

The British Nutrition Foundation’s funding comes from: membership subscriptions; donations and project grants from food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; contracts with government departments; conferences, publications and training; overseas projects; funding from grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities. The British Nutrition Foundation is not a lobbying organisation nor does it endorse any products or engage in food advertising campaigns. More details about the British Nutrition Foundation’s work, funding and governance can be found at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/our-work/who-we-are/.

 

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