UK alters advice on vitamin D

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

The advice marks a break from previous UK government guidance, which stated no additional dietary intake of vitamin D was necessary for individuals living a ‘normal lifestyle’. ©iStock
The advice marks a break from previous UK government guidance, which stated no additional dietary intake of vitamin D was necessary for individuals living a ‘normal lifestyle’. ©iStock
The UK government has advised that adults and children over the age of one should get 10 micrograms (μg) of vitamin D every day.

Public Health England’s (PHE) conclusions came in light of a much-anticipated report from the UK the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)​.

The 10 μg should come from a combination of sources: sunlight, naturally occurring dietary sources and fortified foods and supplements.

The recommendations mark a break from previous UK government advice, which stated no additional dietary intake of vitamin D was necessary for individuals living a ‘normal lifestyle’. 

This latest advice has already seen the country’s National Health Service (NHS) tentatively advise​ the public that “some people may want to consider taking a supplement”​.

For adults this advice is particularly relevant in winter and autumn however children aged one to four years should have a daily 10 μg vitamin D supplement all year round.

As a precaution, babies aged under one should have a daily 8.5-10 μg vitamin D supplement, the NHS wrote. 

Babies who have more than 500 ml of infant formula a day do not need to take supplements however because formula is already fortified.

Back in February​ the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) said the re-emergence of the Victorian-era condition rickets in the UK had put vitamin D intakes back in the spotlight.

It said the SACN report would likely “stimulate debate” ​on the need for food fortification in the future on both a mandatory and voluntary basis.

No call for mandatory fortification 

Speaking with NutraIngredients this week, senior nutrition scientist at the industry-backed charity Ayela Spiro said: The report clearly highlights the importance of adequate vitamin D, and highlights that fortified foods make a contribution to vitamin D intake in the population. 

“However, the report does not make a recommendation for mandatory food fortification, so manufacturers will continue to make voluntary decisions on fortification with vitamin D.”​ 

Mandatory requirement to fortify margarine were removed in the UK in 2013, yet most fat spreads are still fortified with vitamin D on a voluntary basis as are some breakfast cereals. 

On the EU stage 

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also published its opinion on vitamin D​ intakes this month.

It set an adequate intake (AI) level of 15 µg per day from food sources for adults and children to achieve a serum level of 50 nanomoles per litre (nmol / L).

For infants aged seven to 11 months, 10 µg per day was established.

The opinion proved to be somewhat contentious, with a social media campaign bringing in an “avalanche of comments”​ from individuals advocating higher doses.

Lead NDA panellist for the opinion Dr Inge Mangelsdorf said this showed vitamin D was a “hot topic”. ​ 

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