A Government report has advised that people in Britain should boost their vitamin D intake with supplements due to the lack of bright sunshine required to provide it naturally.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and maintaining a health immune system, but unlike most vitamins, only a small amount is obtained from diet alone, with the majority required from UVB rays from the sun.
However, the draft report has suggested that people living in Britain are not receiving enough sunlight for the body to maintain sufficient amounts of vitamin D and supplements are required to prevent deficiency. The recommendations come from SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) an independent advisory body to the government.
The recommendation was made after studying the links between vitamin D levels and a range of health problems, including musculoskeletal health, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
A vitamin D deficiency epidemic
Not only has vitamin D deficiency been linked to several autoimmune diseases, recent years has seen a rise in cases of rickets, a deformity of the bones.
There are a number of factors causing this epidemic:
- Low UVB levels – 7 months of the year the UK’s levels of UVB are too weak to allow effective vitamin D production.
- Sunscreen - Even on sunny days many people are cautious of exposing their skin to the sun and cover up with high factor sunscreen or clothing which block the UVB rays required for vitamin D.
- Increasingly indoor lifestyle - Many people work and spend their leisure time indoors, not exposing themselves to natural light.
This new advice challenges the previous assumption that exposure to sunlight would enable most people to reach adequate levels of vitamin D, but new scientific evidence shows “this is not the case”.
The report advises people to supplement throughout the year as a “precautionary measure” to cover those who do not get much exposure to the sun. Many people fall under this category, even during the summer months.