- The so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ is beneficial to bone and muscle health
Staying indoors too much could be the reason why more than one in three of us is suffering from a Vitman D deficiency, a new study suggests.
The so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ is beneficial to bone and muscle health, helping to reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis in later life – and is also thought to lower the risk of type-1 diabetes, respiratory diseases and other ailments.
But Britons of all ages are not getting enough of it with contributory factors including poor diet, not spending enough time outdoors and failing to take supplements to top up the shortfall.
A review for the Food and Nutrition Journal which looked at research including a study among 210,502 patients who took a Vitamin D test, found a third did not meet the accepted blood level (30 nmol/litre) rising to two-thirds in people with darker skins.
Sunlight is the most recognised way of getting vitamin D but is affected by the use of sunscreen, air pollution, cloud cover and a person’s own skin melanin content.
Foods such as oily fish and eggs can help, but only in sufficiently high quantities. Meanwhile, it is feared that the increasing move towards vegetarian and vegan diets may be cutting out some of these ingredients.
The Food and Nutrition Journal research review by the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS) looked at data including the government’s own National Diet and Nutrition Survey which found young adults were most likely to be deficient in Vitamin D.
One of the research team, HSIS nutritionist Dr Pamela Mason, said: ‘Closing the gap between vitamin D intakes and recommendations is imperative to prevent deficiency, and maintain bone and muscle health, particularly to help prevent nutritional rickets and osteomalacia.
‘Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone mineralisation which is positively associated with bone mineral density. Good bone health is essential for consolidating bone mass in adulthood and reducing the risk of osteoporosis in later life.’
UK recommendations of daily vitamin D intake are lower than in most of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Mason added: ‘Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D and oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, would need to be consumed several times a week if not daily to meet the daily 10 mcg recommendation.
‘This isn’t acceptable to everyone, and only a few foods, such as some cereals and dairy alternatives, are fortified. Supplementation with a multivitamin and multimineral containing vitamin D would therefore appear to be the best way to achieve recommended levels.
‘Vitamin D is cost effective and easy to take. Additionally, supplementation offers potential cost savings to the NHS. Healthcare professionals are in a position to routinely advise patients to take a 10-mcg daily supplement and to increase their intake of vitamin D containing foods.
‘Advice needs also to be reinforced through care homes, local parenting and community groups and via faith groups.’