England’s chief medical officer backs (free) vitamin D supplements
In the wake of rising rates of rickets among under-5s Davies said that group, as well as other vulnerable groups like the elderly and pregnant and breastfeeding women, should take daily vitamin D supplements.
The call came as part of the UK government’s decision to review the advice issued on Vitamin D after research identified large deficiencies among high risk groups has been backed by the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
Davies said lower income groups would have free access to vitamin D supplements.
"We know a significant proportion of people in the UK probably have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood,” Davies said.
“People at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant women and children under five, are already advised to take daily supplements.
"Our experts are clear - low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.”
"Many health professionals such as midwives, GPs and nurses give advice on supplements, and it is crucial they continue to offer this advice as part of routine consultations and ensure disadvantaged families have access to free vitamin supplements through our Healthy Start scheme.”
"It is important to raise awareness of this issue, and I will be contacting health professionals on the need to prescribe and recommend vitamin D supplements to at-risk groups."
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to heart disease and some forms of cancer.
A report produced last year by the The Feeding for Life Foundation found one in four toddlers in the UK is vitamin D deficient.
The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D deficiency in adults is reported to precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.
The science supporting the muscle function of vitamin D, as well as the vitamin’s role in immune health, is sufficiently robust to have merited a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Despite such proclamations of support, many people across the world are not getting enough vitamin D.
While our bodies do manufacture vitamin D on exposure to sunshine, the levels in some northern countries are so weak during the winter months that our body makes no vitamin D at all, meaning that dietary supplements and fortified foods are seen by many as the best way to boost intakes of vitamin D.
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Posted by dr maurice mckeown,