Big news this week for the Nutrition world! The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) released new vitamin D recommendations in their long awaited Vitamin D Report! Importantly the report doesn’t set the guidelines, it is just used to advise the Government on what recommendations they should make.
However, to cut through the confusion here is a summary of what the new vitamin D recommendations say.
In a change to previous advice, SACN is now recommending new vitamin D recommendations as follows:
- a new reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, for everyone in the general population aged 4 years and older
- an RNI of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day for pregnant and breastfeeding women and population groups at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency
- an updated ‘safe intake’ of 8.5 to 10 micrograms per day for infants from birth to 1 year
- an updated ‘safe intake’ of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day for children aged 1 to 4
What do the new Vitamin D recommendations mean for the public?
The recommendations on how much vitamin D we should be getting each day have altered due to us having more data and more studies looking into requirements and intakes in the UK. This has allowed SACN to make more specific recommendations for different groups and members of the public.
A lot of previous research has shown that many people, especially in the winter months, are low in vitamin D.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a hormone that is needed in the body to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our body. Vitamin D, as well as calcium, is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Without enough of it we may see children developing a bone disease called rickets and osteomalacia developing in adulthood.
Where does vitamin D come from?
Vitamin D mainly comes from sunlight, specifically in the months from April to September. There is also vitamin D in oily fish, red meat, egg yolk, wild mushrooms, breakfast cereals as well as in milks and spreads which are fortified with vitamin D.
However, the amount you get from food is fairly low. See below an image from Dietitian Catherine Collins which shows the foods you need to eat to meet 10 micrograms a day.
What are the new recommendations for vitamin D intakes?
The SACN report suggests a new reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, for everyone in the general population aged 4 years and older. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women and those at risk of deficiency (those who don’t get much exposure to the sun, always use sun cream when outside or those who tend to wear lots of clothes to cover up).
However, especially during the winter, when there isn’t much sunlight, it can be hard for everyone to reach their RNI of 10 micrograms of vitamin D/day.
Action point 1: Therefore SACN have recommended that during autumn and winter everyone from the age of 4 and up should be taking a supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.
Action point 2: For those in ‘at risk’ groups, who have little exposure to the sun (and anyone else who chooses too), it’s recommended that they should consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D everyday throughout the year.
Vitamin D recommendations for children
You can see the old recommendations here for vitamin D for children, if you’re interested.
The new Vitamin D recommendations suggest a ‘safe intake’ of 8.5-10 micrograms for infants from 0 to 1 year of age.
As infants and toddlers get minimal exposure to the sun, and are unlikely to get enough vitamin D from foods it is therefore essential that:
Action point 3: Infants from 0-1 year of age, who are breastfeeding of mixed feeding, receive vitamin drops or a form of vitamin D supplement every day throughout the year.
Children who are fully formula fed do not need a vitamin D supplement until they are having less than around 500 mls of formula a day.
Action point 4: Children between the ages of 1 and 4 years are now recommended a ‘safe intake’ of 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day and therefore should also be given a daily supplement of 10 micrograms of Vitamin D everyday throughout the year.
Luckily mums can also get Vitamin D for their little ones from a product I worked on called ‘Arla Big Milk’ which is a fresh cow’s milk specifically enriched with Vitamin D to help children in meeting their recommended intakes!
For children between 4 and 11 years of age, the same recommendations stand as those for the rest of the public – 10 micrograms are recommended each day during the winter months but you can choose to take them throughout the year if you wish to, or if they are in an ‘at risk’ group.
I hope this article makes the guidelines clearer for some people. Please email me any questions you have and see some links below for more information.
µg = microgram (mcg)
UI = international unit (not used so much in the UK).
However, 10mcg is equal to 400IU.
And some further reading:
An old article from me on Vitamin D recommendations
BBC headlines on new Vitamin D Recommendations
The Full SACN report on Vitamin D
NHS choices interpretation of the new Vitamin D recommendations