An information leaflet ‘Vitamin D’, published by the Swiss Federal Food Safety & Veterinary Office (FSVO) and targeting elderly consumers, promotes supplementation to relieve health problems associated with old age.
The latest recommendations align with those of the International Alliance of Dietary and Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) that represents the supplements industry and engages with global policy makers and stakeholders to raise awareness of the health benefits of supplementation.
Cynthia Rousselot, IADSA’s Director of Technical & Regulatory Affairs, commented: “We are pleased to see that Swiss government recognises the importance of vitamin D and the role supplementation can play in ensuring that people consume enough of this essential nutrient.”
There is currently no international consensus on the optimal level for vitamin D supplementation and regional recommendations range from 400 to 2000 IU daily.
The guidance note explains the benefits of consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D for bone, muscle, brain and heart health, as well as dental health and the immune system, and asserts that sufficient intake can help reduce the risk of falls and hip fractures by 30%.
Vitamin D is primarily synthesised by the skin when exposed to sunlight and adequate quantities help improve bone density. However, our ability to produce vitamin D diminishes with age and gradually reduces by 25%, it says. As a consequence, it estimates that around 50% of the population are deficient in vitamin D, with insufficient quantities obtained through normal diet.
The FSVO recommends boosting vitamin D with supplementation in the form of drops or gels but suggests elderly patients consult their doctor beforehand.
Consumers are advised to combine vitamin D supplementation with sufficient protein consumption and physical activity to conserve muscle strength and maintain independence for as long as possible.
The leaflet also offers practical advice and encourages regular exercise to take advantage of natural sunlight, while protecting skin from sun damage.
Figures from the IADSA ‘Mind the gap’ initiative, suggest adequate levels of blood vitamin D (25(OHD)) are between 20-30 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml), with deficiencies determined as levels below 10ng/ml.
The association maintains that 6.7% of the global population suffer from vitamin D deficiency, while 37.3% “have a status that is insufficient”, while 56% have adequate levels.
Emerging evidence suggests “a high, optimal status delivers incremental benefits”, the association says, and supplementation not only helps improve consumer health but may also relieve the financial burden from osteoporosis-attributed bone fractures, which runs into the billions in the EU and US.
Globally, one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 suffer an osteoporotic fracture, with the incidence in women higher than the total occurrence of cancer, heart infarction, stroke, or diabetes, according to data from the IADSA.
Optimal vitamin D of 30 ng/ml is also associated with improved muscle strength, a healthy immune system and normal blood pressure levels, as well as reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
In addition, a review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of mortality “by all causes”.