All of us aged five to 65 should be taking a vitamin D supplement through winter and other groups for longer, new guidelines reveal.
The recommendations says for healthy children aged five to 11 a daily vitamin D supplement containing 10 µg (400 IU) should be taken.
*During extended winter – from the end of October to March- a supplement is recommended for this age group for those with fair skin while those of darker skinned should take one for a full year.
*For healthy teenagers and adults aged 12 to 65 a daily vitamin D supplement containing 15 µg (600 IU) should be taken during winter if fair skinned and throughout the year for those of darker skinned ethnicity.
*Women who are pregnant should take a vitamin D throughout the full year.
The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) said: “In addition to food sources, vitamin D supplements are recommended for everyone, in particular teenagers, pregnant women and people of dark-skinned ethnicity who are at highest risk of vitamin D deficiency.”
The report issued by the FSAI’s Scientific Committee: Vitamin D: Scientific Recommendations for 5 to 65 Year Olds Living in Ireland details the health consequences of vitamin D deficiency, which mainly affects bone health – causing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Although vitamin D deficiency has been linked with higher risk of respiratory infections, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, certain cancers and infectious diseases including Covid-19 this is not proven.
Prof Kevin Cashman, chair of the public health nutrition subcommittee that prepared the report highlighted the importance of vitamin D and not being deficient in it in certain life stages.
“Vitamin D is involved in calcium metabolism and sufficient intake is essential for good bone health throughout the lives of children and adults. It also contributes to the normal function of the immune system and maintenance of normal muscle function.
“In certain life stages, it is important to ensure that we are not deficient in vitamin D. For example, during the teenage years when vitamin D facilitates the important gains in bone mineral mass, and during pregnancy where vitamin D is needed for the skeletal development of the foetus and to protect the mother’s bone health.
“At all ages, people of darker-skinned ethnicity have higher vitamin D requirements because the increased content of melanin in darker skin reduces the body’s ability to make vitamin D from UVB rays from sunlight.”
Dr Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive said: “The weaker sunlight available from October to March in Ireland is not a source of vitamin D. People may be unaware that even on sunny days in winter, the sun’s rays are the wrong type for the production of vitamin D. As a result, we depend on our diets to supply this key vitamin, but levels of vitamin D are limited in our food supply.
“This results in vitamin D deficiency being common among children and adults in Ireland. We consider the prevention of vitamin D deficiency to be a public health nutrition priority and this report outlines how we can combat this deficiency through using both natural food sources of vitamin D and fortified foods along with appropriate doses of vitamin D supplements.
“We urge the population to be mindful of the daily recommended dose and not to exceed this unless advised by a medical professional. The tolerable upper limit intake level is 50 µg daily for children and 100 µg daily for adults, as declared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
“The recommended daily dose of 10 µg or 15 µg for children and adults, respectively, is overall a safe level of supplemental vitamin D, even when combined with vitamin D intake from diet and fortified foods.
“Following our previous reports on young children and older adults, we welcome this report covering the remaining population in Ireland. Collectively, we hope these reports informing policy and practice will enable the prevention of vitamin D deficiency in Ireland in the not-too-distant future.”