British public told they should be taking supplements due to scare sunlight.
Public Health Advice in England and Wales says that Vitamin D intake cannot be achieved through diet and sunlight alone.
It comes as a government commissioned report sets the recommended levels at 10 micrograms of the vitamin a day, however, due to the low levels of sunlight in Britain it will not be achievable without taking supplements. Low vitamin D levels can lead to brittle bones and rickets in children. It is especially recommended during winter.
Vitamin D is essential for regulating the levels of phosphate and calcium in the body; this is vital for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones. In extreme cases, low levels can lead to rickets in children – where the bones become soft and weak and misshapen as they continue to grow.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia – causing severe bone pain and muscle aches.
Children aged four and under should take supplements everyday day all year round, and babies under a year old – if they consume extra Vitamin D in baby formula then it isn’t necessary. For adults it is advised that anyone who doesn’t get much exposure to the sun should consider taking the supplements all year round and ‘at risk groups’ should also. For example, pregnant or breastfeeding women and over-65s.
Head of Nutrition Science at Public Health England, Dr Louis Levy, spoke on BBC Radio 4 about the issue and said:
“This is a change in advice, previously we have said that babies from six months to five years should have a supplement and only those people at risk of deficiency should take a supplement.”
“Previously we felt that everybody would get enough from the sunlight.”
“This is new advice based on evidence looked at over the last five years.”
He also mentioned that wearing sunscreen might also have an affect on your vitamin D intake:
“When you go out, you do need to have short bursts without sunscreen and make sure that you don’t get sunburnt.”
NHS England has said vitamin D supplements are available free of charge for low-income families, through the Healthy Start scheme. However, health officials in Scotland and Northern Ireland have said that they have updated their guidance in line with the new recommendations, but only for people aged over six months.
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