New review launched on vitamin D intake to help tackle health disparities

  • Around one in six adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, which can lead to rickets, bone pain and disability
  • Call for evidence from the public, experts, industry and patient groups on innovative ways to boost vitamin D levels

A new study has been launched to promote the importance of vitamin D and identify ways to improve intake in the population, including through dietary supplements and fortified foods and beverages.

Around one in six adults and nearly 20% of children in the UK have vitamin D levels below government recommendations. Older adults, housebound people, and people from black and South Asian communities are more likely to have lower levels of the vital vitamin.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to rickets in children and bone pain and muscle weakness in adults.

The call for evidence, launched today by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), will launch a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the importance of vitamin D and gather views from the public , public health experts, retailers, food manufacturers and other industry bodies on ambitious ways to improve adoption and tackle disparities.

The review comes ahead of the health disparities white paper to be released later this year, which will set out measures to reduce health disparities between different places and communities and address their causes, so that people’s backgrounds do not dictate their outlook for healthy living. .

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“We must sever the link between background and outlook for healthy living, and I am determined to improve the nation’s health and address disparities.

“People from Black and Asian communities, older adults, and people who have limited access to the outdoors are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is essential for bone and muscle health and improvement in years of life lived in good health.

“I launched this call for evidence to identify innovative ways to encourage people to increase their vitamin D intake and help them live longer, healthier and happier lives.”

In the UK, people get the majority of vitamin D from sunlight on their skin in the spring and summer, as dietary sources of vitamin D are limited.

The current advice is that all adults and children consider taking a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement between October and March. Certain at-risk groups are advised to consider taking a supplement throughout the year. However, absorption is low with only one in six adults reporting taking a daily supplement.

The call for evidence will run for six weeks and aims to examine how we are improving people’s vitamin D levels, particularly among at-risk groups.

OHID will engage with representatives of major retailers, pharmacies and health organisations, patient groups and bodies representing people in at-risk groups to support the national awareness campaign.

Dr Tazeem Bhatia, Acting Chief Nutritionist at OHID, said:

“I welcome this call for evidence as part of OHID’s ongoing efforts to improve health outcomes and address health disparities. We want to improve people’s dietary health and that includes helping everyone maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D to support strong, healthy bones and muscles.

Under the Healthy Start program, eligible pregnant women and new mothers can receive free supplements containing folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin D. Eligible children under four can also receive free supplements. However, the estimated consumption of free vitamin supplements is extremely low.

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