This article is paid content from Petits Filous
Author: Dr Carrie Ruxton, Registered Dietitian
Unlike many other vitamins, getting your recommended daily amount of vitamin D is not easy. In fact, one fifth of the general population is deficient in this hormone(1) which is vital for the normal development of bones, teeth and muscles, and supporting normal immune function.(2,3)
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight. However, with short days, long nights and limited sun even during the summer, it’s not easy to maintain an optimal vitamin D status and all of our vitamin D in winter is made up from the diet.(4)
Oily fish is the best natural source (5,6) but just 1 in 5 children in the UK eats oily fish regularly(7). Alternative dietary sources include egg yolk, fortified dairy products such as Petits Filous fromage frais, fortified breakfast cereals, and meat (which is not a rich source but nevertheless provides around 23% in the diet due to the amounts consumed). Interestingly, in the latest NDNS (years 5-6), yogurt and fromage frais and other dairy desserts provided 15% of vitamin D in younger children and 7% in older children, highlighting the importance of these dairy foods.(1)
New vitamin D recommendations
In 2016, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)(5) produced a report which recommended that everyone over the age of four years should aim to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily. The full recommendations are given in the table below.
|AGE GROUP||TYPE OF RECOMMENDATION||MICROGRAMS PER DAY|
|0 to 12 months||Safe intake||8.5 to 10|
|1 to 4 years||Safe intake||10|
|4 years +||Reference Nutrient Intake||10|
SACN guidance on vitamin D
SACN clearly stated that “it is difficult to achieve the RNI/Safe Intake from natural food sources alone” and recommended that the Government consider strategies to boost vitamin D intakes. The graph below presents the proportion of children with vitamin D deficiency which increases with age - probably because fortified milk consumption declines without being replaced by other rich sources of vitamin D. In response to SACN, PHE came out with a strong public health message to combine natural sources with fortified foods and dietary supplements. (8)
Vitamin D deficiencies in the UK
It is vital that families recognise the need to consume foods rich in vitamin D, as deficiency is a major issue in the UK leading to a greater risk of poor bone health. Current mean intakes in children are in the region of 2.0 to 2.4 micrograms daily, well below the recommended 10 micrograms.(9)
Health visitors and other community practitioners can have a positive impact on vitamin D status in families with babies and young children by identifying those who are at risk, and by delivering appropriate advice on sun exposure, diet and supplementation, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle from birth.
1. Bates et al. (2016) National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from years 5 and 6 (combined) of the Rolling Programme. London: PHE/FSA.
2. European Commission (2012) Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health. Official Journal of the European Union L136: 1–40.
3. European Commission (2016) EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods. http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims/register/public/?event=register.home
4. Ruxton CHS, Derbyshire E (2009). Health impacts of vitamin D: are we getting enough? Nutrition Bulletin 34: 185–197.
5. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2016). Vitamin D and health. www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report
6. National Institutes for Health website https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminDHealthProfessional/
7. Ruxton CHS (2011). The benefits of fish consumption. Nutrition Bulletin 36: 6-19.
8. Public Health England (2016) PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D. www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-new-advice-on-vitamin-d
9. Bates et al. (2014) National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from years 1 to 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme. London: PHE/FSA.
10. NatCen Social Research et al. (2013). Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children, 2011. www.gov.uk/government/publications/diet-and-nutrition-survey-of-infants-and-young-children-2011