British women urged to increase vitamin D intake

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin d intake, Osteoporosis, Vitamin d

Women are being encouraged to protect their bones from osteoporosis
by ensuring they get enough vitamin D, in a campaign launched
yesterday in the UK.

The Women's Health Concern campaign is being sponsored by pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dome Limited, and will distribute patient leaflets and nutrition guides to doctors' surgeries around the country.

"We want to make women aware of osteoporosis, let them know about the benefits of vitamin D and encourage them to make sure they are getting enough,"​ said Karen Winterhalter, executive director of Women's Health Concern.

Vitamin D currently only makes up 4 per cent of all vitamin sales and lags well behind calcium in terms of bone health supplements. But increasing evidence underlines its importance in protecting against fractures.

A recent UK study revealed that 97.8 per cent of hip fracture patients had vitamin D levels below normal.

"It may be that vitamin D represents a correctable risk factor for fragility fracture in the elderly, possibly specifically for the hip,"​ said the researchers.

Further research recently presented in the US at a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), suggested that more than half of osteoporosis sufferers do not consume sufficient quantities of vitamin D - an oversight that could make them more vulnerable to falls and fractures.

Bone health is set to become a major segment of the supplements and functional foods market based on an ageing population. Worldwide, the lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40 per cent and in men the risk is about 13 per cent.

The Scientific Committee for Food at the European Commission recommends that all women over 65 should have a daily intake of 400 IU (10 micro g/d) of vitamin D.

"Vitamin D inadequacy does appear to be a risk factor for bone fractures as people get older, and simple steps can be taken to correct this,"​ said Dr Richard Keen, director of the Metabolic Unit at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, London.

"Even if post-menopausal women are already being treated for osteoporosis, vitamin D is often overlooked,"​ he added.

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