As daylight hours diminish and temperatures start to fall, a nutritionist’s thoughts will naturally turn to vitamin D; the darker nights are a vital cue to add in a daily supplement.
Unlike most other essential nutrients, vitamin D isn’t typically supplied by a healthy balanced diet – the main source of vitamin D is bare skin contact with sunshine, and when sunlight is scarce and skin is hidden under woolly layers, deficiency risk really starts to soar.
The long term public health impact of low vitamin D is of significant concern, especially since we now know that vitamin D acts not only on the skeletal system but on almost every other body system too; vitamin D receptors have been identified in nearly all tissue types throughout the body. In simple terms this means that we cannot rule out vitamin D’s involvement in any aspect of health.
Reported cases of vitamin D deficiency have been increasing in incidence and Public Health England now recommends that everyone should supplement their diet with vitamin D between October – March. Here we take a brief look at some of the latest research to keep you up to date.
• High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in adults over 50 years old - A recent study was carried out to investigate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in older adults in England. The study was published in Nutrients in June 2019 and involved 6004 adults aged > 50 years. The team of researchers found that more than half of the adults had 25(OH)D concentrations below 50 nmol/l (The Endocrine Society deficiency criteria). The researchers concluded,
“these findings demonstrate that low vitamin D status is highly prevalent in older English adults and the crucial importance of public health strategies throughout midlife and older age to achieve optimal vitamin D status.”1
• Low vitamin D may be linked to behavioural problems in adolescence - A new study published in August 2019 in the Journal of Nutrition and involving 273 children aged 5 – 12 years old has found that low vitamin D in middle childhood may be linked to behaviour problems in adolescence.2
• Many parents of young children are unaware of vitamin D supplement requirements - A new study published in BMC Public Health in August 2019 has found that parents of children up to the age of 2 years old are generally not aware of the importance of vitamin D or of supplement requirements. The researchers concluded that,
“major improvements are required for the effective promotion of vitamin D information to parents”.3
The vitamin D message still isn’t getting through
Despite a wealth of scientific interest in vitamin D and its known widespread impact on optimal health, it seems the message still isn’t getting through. It’s crucial to be aware of your vitamin D levels and to take a higher supplemental dose if you are deficient. For those whose levels are already within the optimal range, it is still important to take a daily maintenance dose throughout the cooler months. For more information on vitamin D, take a look at this comprehensive research summary and our useful client-friendly fact sheet.
1. Aspell, N, Laird, E. et al. The Prevalence and Determinants of Vitamin D Status in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Results from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Nutrients 2019, 11, 1253.
2. Robinson SL, Marin C et al. Vitamin D deficiency in middle childhood is related to behavioural problems in adolescence. The Journal of Nutrition 20 August 2019.
3. Day RE, Krishnaro R et al. We still don’t know that our children need vitamin D daily: a study of parents’ understanding of vitamin D requirements in children aged 0-2 years. BMC Public Health 19, Article number: 1119 (2019)