On 21st July 2016, the UK government published recommendations based on a review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) stating that everybody in the UK should supplement 10μg (micrograms) of vitamin D every day throughout the Autumn and Winter months.
In addition, the government stated that people who do not spend substantial time outdoors (for example, old or institutionalised people) and those who wear clothes that cover most of their skin whilst they are outdoors, should supplement vitamin D daily all year round.
The recommendations have been applied to babies 0-3 and children aged 4-11 as well as older children and adults - 10μg is the recommended dose for all of these age groups.
Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and phosphate in the body and for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen an increase in the number of cases of rickets amongst children in the UK and similarly of osteomalacia (or soft bones) in adults. It is this change that prompted the government to investigate the need for supplementation and to make these latest recommendations.
The primary source of vitamin D is bright sunshine on the skin (face, arms and neck), but in the UK it is not possible to get the required amount of sunshine in the autumn and winter months for the skin to be able to make adequate vitamin D to maintain sufficient levels in the body.
Whilst some vitamin D is available through diet, the amounts are limited, with one egg containing around 40IU and the recommended dose of 10μg being equivalent to 400IU – we would need to eat 10-12 eggs per day to achieve the vitamin D intake the government is now recommending! Other food sources include oily fish, such as salmon, liver and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals.
As a result, the government has taken the unprecedented move of recommending supplementation of vitamin D for everybody.