Scientists from the UK and Europe lambasted public health bodies for not acting on the issue at a British Nutrition Foundation symposium on vitamin D earlier this week.
The issue was revealed in the National Diet & Nutrition Survey last week (May 16).
They also called on other scientists to think outside the box when conducting research and trials into vitamin D deficiencies. Enough research on the nutrient’s effect on infants and the elderly had been done and it was time to explore new issues, they urged.
Think outside the box
“Obesity causes a reduction in vitamin D’s effectiveness in the body, but how do we deal with this when obesity is prevalent in one quarter of adults?” Dr Maired Kiely from University College Cork asked.
Professor Roger Bouillon from the Department of Medicine, Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Belgium, said: “Research into vitamin D’s effect on infants and the elderly is fully established, but for the other age groups, which are 80% of the population, we don’t have the research and evidence.
“From the age of four and upwards, people’s bones don’t fracture like the elderly [as a result of vitamin D deficiency] so we need to know about the other health issues,” he added.
More research into the effect of vitamin D deficiency on South Asians and Africans was needed, Professor Susan Lanham New from the University of Surrey said.
“The thing that really stands out for me is the lack of information on vitamin D requirements in ethnic groups,” said Lanham New. “We need more studies on South Asian and African groups and less on caucasians – there’s lots of information to come from the ethnic groups.”
Effects of high vitamin D intake
The effects of high vitamin D intake also had to be explored, urged Dr Christel Lamberg-Allardt from the University of Helsinki. “There are a lot of people preaching that we should eat 50 to 100 micrograms of vitamin D per-day,” she said. “But we don’t know about the effects.”
While Kiely concluded: “We know how to prevent vitamin D deficiency and we should be preventing it. There’s no reason not to have it as a public health priority. There’s no excuse.”
Scientific evidence has linked vitamin D intake to bone health. During the summer 90% of vitamin D is derived from sunlight and 10% from the diet.
There is no exact recommended daily adult intake for vitamin D set in the EU, but labelling guidelines suggest 5mg. The European Food Safety Authority has allowed products containing it to claim they helped the body’s immune system.
Meanwhile, subscribe to Food Manufacture to read more about the symposium in our June issue.