Why Everyone In Sun-Strapped Britain Should Take Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D
A selection of vitamin supplements, Edinburgh, Scotland, July 12, 2005. Public health officials have advised Britons to consider getting their vitamin D from 10 microgram supplements during fall and winter. Christopher Furlong/Getty

Everyone in Britain should take vitamin D supplements in fall and winter, tripling their current intake and reducing their risk of bone disease, according to public health officials.

A government-commissioned report has set the recommended levels at 10 micrograms of the vitamin a day, which experts say may not be achievable through diet alone, particularly when sunlight—an aide to vitamin D production—is scarce.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults.

Limited amounts of the vitamin are found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals but, for most people, the bulk of their vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on their skin.

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels and after an extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), it has been suggested that everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health.

Public health officials say in winter months people should consider getting this from 10 microgram supplements, if their diet is unlikely to provide it.

The main function of vitamin D is to regulate calcium and phosphate, which are vital for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

Experts have become concerned in recent years that rickets is re-emerging in children who do not get enough vitamin D, including youngters who are always covered in sunscreen during the summer months and are not exposed to sunlight.