Original post : 27 May 2014
According to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey, adults and children in Britain are not obtaining enough Vitamin D either by diet or the sun's rays. The recommended amount of Vitamin D from the diet however is only set for the under 4's and the over 65's. The average intakes of Vitamin D from food was under the recommended amounts.
In adults this deficiency may lead to multiple sclerosis (research is ongoing) and osteoporosis. In children it affects them whilst they are growing and may cause rickets, where bones in growing children become soft and deformed. Vitamin D works in conjunction with calcium to make strong bones and teeth. NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) has published results showing that rickets has risen ten fold in the last twenty years.
Vitamin D is best absorbed by spending some time in the sun. However it can also be absorbed by eating oily fish and consuming fish oil tablets.
The National Diet Survey recommends that 1 portion of oily fish weighing 140g should be eaten a week. If this is too large a portion, then break it down into two or three smaller portions and eat over a week.
Examples include sardines, trout, mackerel, swordfish, fresh tuna, salmon and kippers.
While oily fish is the best way to absorb vitamin D, some foods are fortified with vitamin D and can be taken in conjunction with fish to help improve the levels of vitamin D.
Other foods that contain Vitamin D are:
- Fortified butter spreads (but remember to check the labels as some are not fortified)
- Fortified follow on milk (cows milk in the UK is not fortified)
- Eggs, try scrambling and serve with a piece of toast spread with fortified spread
- Liver (beef)
- Cereal products that are fortified
- Fortified yoghurts and fromage frais products
Those at risk of getting insuffcient amounts of Vitamin D are:
- Toddlers (children under 5) who need to eat at least 7 micrograms of Vitamin D in their daily diet, not including the sunlight that they may be absorbing. It can be difficult for a toddler to eat enough of foods that contain Vitamin D, especially if you have a fussy eater. The Department of Health recommend that children between 6 months and 5 years take a supplement of 7-8.5 micrograms.
- Ethnic groups with a darker skin, who do not produce as much Vitamin D in response to sunlight.
- The older generation (from 65 years) have a thinner skin and cannot make Vitamin D easily. It is recommended that this age group take a 10 microgram supplement of Vitamin D.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It is recommended that a 10 microgram supplement of Vitamin D is taken.
- People who cover up when they are outside and those who do not venture outside very often being either housebound or, preferring to to watch telly or play computer games instead!
Too often parents worry abut giving their children supplements; thinking that this means they are failing to give their children an adequate diet. This however is quite wrong. Ensuring that children eat a varied diet, especially as they eat small portions can be challenging. It is easy to give children meals that are easy to make and know that they will eat - however all too often these meals are not containing Vitamin D. Ensure that a varied diet is being eaten and give a supplement as well.
There is no harm in giving children a supplement as it will help ensure that they are getting the correct dosage.
To be able to look at the actual level of Vitamin D, blood tests were taken from a sample group. The results showed that the age group most at risk is girls aged 11 to 18 years, and women aged over 65 years. Children between the ages of eighteen months and three years and men over 65 are also at risk. In the winter months the levels were even lower, this is because the sun does not provide enough UVB light, unless you are lucky enough to go on holiday in this period where the sun will be stronger.
It is vital that everyone gets out in the sunshine and gets a daily dose of Vitamin D. Due to our geography the sun is not strong enough to give us Vitamin D all year round. In the North this is even more so.
It is important to cover up and to use sunscreen, but it is equally important to go out in the sun for around 15 minutes a day without protection to allow the skin to absorb the suns rays and make Vitamin D.