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New study - Brits in the dark over vitamin D

18/01/2013

A new survey of 1000 UK adults[i] has found that 99% of people don’t know the best food sources of vitamin D, despite increasing levels of deficiency in the UK population and rising numbers of cases of rickets in British children.

Vitamin D deficiency affects a substantial amount of the British public -around 20% of UK adults and 18% of children have inadequate levels of vitamin D[ii], which is of particular concern as there is emerging evidence that low vitamin D status may also be linked to increased risk of heart disease and some cancers as well as to poor bone health[iii].With sunlight being the best source of vitamin D, the situation in the UK is likely to be made worse by the recent gloomy weather.   

More than one in four of those surveyed this month could not identify any sources of vitamin D from a list of 17 foods and most people could not name either of the two best food sources – oily fish and eggs.  And one in five wrongly thought that vitamin D is found in vegetables.

Nearly three-quarters did not recognise that eggs are one of the best sources of vitamin D and less than half knew that oily fish was a good source - the four best food sources that provide vitamin D are oily fish, eggs, fortified margarines and fortified breakfast cereals[iv]. 

“These figures are very worrying,” says Cath MacDonald, independent nutritionist.  “Despite recent publicity about the increasing levels of vitamin D deficiency among many population groups, the message is still not getting through that certain foods can make a significant contribution to our daily requirements, which is especially important at this time of year when blood levels of vitamin D are low.

“Two eggs, or a portion of oily fish, can provide most of the daily vitamin D that we need so it’s important that people wise up about their food choices, particularly in winter when it’s almost impossible to get enough from sunlight in the UK.”

The survey showed that those at an age when becoming a parent is most probable -  18-44 – were even less likely to know the key foods containing vitamin D than the over-45, yet pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children are among the groups most at risk of deficiency.

Vitamin D is essential for good health, and helps keep bones and teeth healthy by regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

References

[i] Research conducted by OnePoll in January 2013 on 1,000 UK adults
[ii] Bates B et al. (2012) National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Headline results from Years 1, 2 and 3 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009–2010/11) http://transparency.dh.gov.uk/2012/07/25/ndns-3-years-report/
[iii]Ruxton CHS and Derbyshire E (2010) Health impacts of vitamin D: are we getting enough? Nutrition Bulletin 34 165-197.
[iv] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-D.aspx