Led by secretary of state for health and social care Sajid Javid, the consultation followed reports that one in six adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D – a figure heavily impacted by the changes in lifestyle caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Javid said: “As social restrictions are lifted and we manage living with COVID-19, it’s timely to consider how we improve the population’s vitamin D status, particularly within at-risk groups.”
Open to any individual, organisation or business, the review invited respondents’ views on addressing health disparities related to accessing and consuming vitamin D, improving awareness of vitamin D, the fortification of foods with vitamin D and improving intake through dietary supplements and increasing access to these supplements.
The call for evidence will run for six weeks, starting from 3 April and ending on 15 May 2022.
The government will publish a summary of responses shortly after the call for evidence closes on 15 May 2022. Evidence submitted will be considered as part of a policy to improve the vitamin D status of the population, which may lead to further consultation in the future.
“This call for evidence will kick-start a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy vitamin D status and a period of engagement with key stakeholders to identify ambitious and innovative ways to improve population vitamin D status,” Javid added.
“I have also asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to consider this issue. I welcome your views on how we can achieve this together.”
Meanwhile, a BNF review has concluded healthy diets with more plant-based foods can also be better for the environment and consumers should avoid neglecting nutrients to meet eco-friendly aims.
British Nutrition Foundation response
"The British Nutrition Foundation welcomes the review announced by DHSC to promote the importance of vitamin D and identify ways to improve intake across the population.
"While most people can get enough of the vitamins and minerals they need through a healthy, balanced diet; there are limited rich dietary sources of vitamin D and we rely on skin synthesis which is only possible in the spring and summer sunshine.
"In our survey last year, almost half of British adults (49%) were not aware of the Government’s recommendation to take vitamin D supplements during the autumn and winter months. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood and we have seen little improvement in vitamin D status in the population in recent years.
"With the importance of this vitamin for keeping our bones and muscles healthy, and supporting normal immunity, more needs to be done to raise awareness of the need to consider a vitamin D supplement and look at ways to increase availability of fortified foods."
Some groups, such as older people, the housebound and people from Black and South Asian communities, are more vulnerable to poor vitamin D status. To reduce further health inequalities, supplements should be available for all (e.g. via the Healthy Start Scheme), readily accessible and their health benefits widely promoted.