Now is the time to start taking Vitamin D supplements as the UK’s shortest day looms, say top scientists at the British Nutrition Foundation.
It comes off the back of a new survey which revealed more than two-thirds (68%) of British adults are not aware of the Government’s recommendation to take daily vitamin D supplements between October and March – when the days are shorter, the nights are longer and exposure to sunlight is lessened.
This number is increased to 78% in young adults aged between 18-24 – a life stage when bone health is particularly important.
And the ability for people to afford supplements has reportedly been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, with 17% of respondents revealing that they are buying dietary supplements less often.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium to build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, and it also helps the immune system to work as it should. In the UK we get most of our vitamin D from the sun, as there are relatively few rich food sources, yet during the autumn and winter months the sun is too low in the sky to produce the UV wavelengths required for our bodies to make vitamin D. It is therefore important that we follow Government advice and consider taking a vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms daily during the autumn and winter months.
The latest British Nutrition Foundation survey, which was conducted by YouGov, revealed that 15% of respondents believe that they don’t need to take vitamin D supplements as they get enough from their diet or sunlight.
It also highlighted a lack of knowledge about the role and benefits of vitamin D with 8% of respondents admitting that they do not take vitamin D as they aren’t aware of the benefits of consuming them.
Interestingly, out of the respondents this year who regularly or sometimes take vitamin D supplements, 38% do so to maintain or improve their general health yet less than a quarter (24%) do so to keep their bones healthy.
Commenting on the findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation, said, “The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey data shows that 1 in 6 people in the UK have low vitamin D levels in their blood. Looking at the proportion of people who are even aware of this recommendation, there is still much to be done to raise awareness of the recommendation that we all consider taking a 10 mcg supplement during the autumn and winter months, as uptake of this advice is still too low.".
She added, “Whilst many people are faced with the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis, it may help to know that you do not need to spend more on pricier branded supplements. Often, the best-value vitamin D supplements can be found in the supermarket own brands, so it can be worth shopping around. It's also useful to be aware of everyday foods that can provide vitamin D, such as canned oily fish, eggs and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals,”
1 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,010 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 28th September 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
‘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, 'bone health' vitamins etc.).
2 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/
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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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