Public Health England advice on Vitamin D

On 21 July 2016, Public Health England (PHE) published advice that everyone in the UK should consider taking daily supplements of 10 micrograms of vitamin D in autumn and winter. The advice followed updated recommendations from the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), a national expert panel on nutrition and related health issues.

SACN review

In 2010, SACN was asked by the Department of Health to consider whether the previous national vitamin D intake guidelines (aimed at ensuring enough vitamin D to protect musculoskeletal health) were still appropriate. The previous guidelines had been set by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) in 1991 and did not recommend supplementation for people not in at-risk groups.

In July 2016, SACN published their review of the evidence on vitamin D’s benefits for muscle and bone health. The review recommended that everyone aged 4 and above needed an average daily intake of vitamin D equivalent to 10mcgs, and recommended variations for at-risk groups including pregnant and lactating women, and infants.

PHE recommendations

Following SACN’s recommendations, PHE advised that everyone in the UK needed to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D in autumn and winter, because of the lack of sunlight in these months. Due to the difficulty of meeting the 10mcg per day recommendation from food, PHE stated that everyone should consider taking daily supplements in autumn and winter. PHE issued a stronger recommendation that people with very limited exposure to the sun or who have darker skin consider taking supplements throughout the year.

PHE also recommended a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement for children aged 1–4 throughout the year. For babies under one, the recommendation was for a daily 8.5–10mcg vitamin D supplement (except for those having more than 500ml of infant formula per day, which is vitamin D fortified).

NICE guidelines

In August 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated their guidelines on vitamin D supplement use to align with PHE’s recommendations. The NICE guidelines focused on ensuring that information on vitamin D supplementation was available for the most at-risk groups (including people with darker skin and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding).

Data released by NHS digital showed that hospital admissions as a result of vitamin D deficiency fell in 2017/18, the year after PHE's new advice was released.

Source(s)

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
SACN vitamin D and health report.
UK government; 2016.

Public Health England.
PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D [webpage].
gov.uk; 2016.

NHS.
The new guidelines on vitamin D – what you need to know [webpage].
NHS; 2016.

National institute for Health and Care Excellence
Vitamin D: supplement use in specific population group.
National institute for Health and Care Excellence; 2014.