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Half of UK consumers unaware of vitamin D supplementation guidelines

Article-Half of UK consumers unaware of vitamin D supplementation guidelines

© AdobeStock/Andrii Zastrozhnov Half of UK consumers unaware of vitamin D supplementation guidelines
As many as 50% of UK consumers are unaware of government guidelines on vitamin D supplementation, a British Nutrition Foundation survey shows.

The figures demonstrate a small increase since the poll was last carried out, in 2021, when 49% of people said they were unaware of the supplementation guidelines.

Worryingly, however, 44% of respondents said they never took vitamin D supplements – an increase from the 39% reported in 2021.

Reasons for avoiding intake included a preference not to take supplements (25%); a lack of awareness regarding the benefits of supplementation (22%) or which supplement to take (13%); and concerns around affordability (14%).

Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, told Vitafoods Insights: "We don’t have enough data from our surveys to see clear trends, but it doesn’t appear that there has been an increase in awareness or in people taking vitamin D supplements in recent years. We haven’t seen any large-scale communications to raise awareness of the government recommendations on vitamin D, so it's perhaps not surprising that more people have not heard of the advice."

Asked whether the cost-of-living crisis could be a contributing factor, she said: "We know that people’s budgets are really tight at the moment. While you can get vitamin D supplements that are relatively inexpensive, when people are struggling to afford the basics then anything extra is going to be a challenge."

Fall in number of people taking vitamin D supplements

As the human body struggles to make vitamin D from sun exposure during the autumn and winter months, the UK Government recommends that adults and children over 4 years old consider taking a 10 µg/day vitamin D supplement between October and March. People at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and infants and children up to 4 years old, are advised to take a vitamin D supplement all year round.

However, the BNF survey found that while 28% of respondents stated they were aware of this recommendation, fewer than one in 10 (7%) admitted to taking supplements between October and March, while one in four (24%) said they did so all year round.

These figures are slightly lower than 2021, when 8% said they took vitamin D supplements between October and March, and 26% reported taking them throughout the year.

Benelam added: “The lack of awareness around the need for vitamin D supplements at this time of year is concerning as vitamin D is essential for keeping our bones and muscles healthy. While we can get some vitamin D from our diet, our main source is sunlight exposure on the skin.

“National surveys show that more than one in 10 of us have low levels of vitamin D in the blood, so it is really important that we raise awareness of the need to consider supplements from October to March to maintain the levels we need for good health.”

© AdobeStock/PormezzHalf of UK consumers unaware of vitamin D supplementation guidelines

Reasons cited for taking supplements included being advised to do so by a healthcare professional (31%); wanting to maintain or improve general health (40%); and being aware of not getting enough vitamin D from diet and sunlight (33%).

For the EU population, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends 10 µg/day vitamin D supplementation for infants aged seven to 11 months, and 15 µg/day for all other population groups.

Asked about the role of industry, Benelam said: "Stakeholders across society can help to raise awareness of issues like vitamin D and industry can help to play their part, not only in raising awareness of supplements but also of the role that foods fortified with vitamin D can play."