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BNF Survey Reveals 49% of UK Adults Unaware of Government’s Guidelines for Vitamin D Supplements

A new survey commissioned by the British Nutrition Foundation revealed that almost half of British adults (49%) are not aware of government recommendations to consider taking vitamin D supplements during the autumn and winter months.

Vitamin D is essential for keeping our bones and muscles healthy, and also for supporting normal immunity. While we can get some vitamin D from our diet, the main source is sunlight exposure on the skin.  During autumn and winter in the UK, ultra violet (UV) light levels from the sun are not strong enough for us to make vitamin D in our skin.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that about one-in-six adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Government advises everyone to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 mg from October-March to help keep bones and muscles healthy.

Conducted by YouGov, the survey looked at people’s awareness and habits in relation to vitamin D.

The survey found that

  • 32% were aware of the government advice on vitamin D supplements including the daily amount recommended and 19% had heard of the recommendation but were not aware that the daily amount suggested is 10 mg.

When it came to taking vitamin D supplements

  • 26% say they take vitamin D supplements all year round.
  • 8% say they take vitamin D supplements for most of the year.
  • 8% say they take them during the autumn and winter months.
  • 15% take them ‘inconsistently’.
  • 39% say they never take vitamin D supplements.

Of those who reported taking vitamin D supplements

  • 40% say they take vitamin D for their general health.
  • 36% take supplements because they don’t think they get enough vitamin D from their diet and/or sunlight.
  • 27% say they take vitamin D to keep their bones healthy.
  • Only 10% say they take vitamin D in order to follow the government guidelines.

While we currently don’t have robust evidence that vitamin D can reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, 21% of respondents who take supplements say they take vitamin D to protect themselves from COVID-19. Of the respondents who say they never take vitamin D supplements, 31% think they already get enough vitamin D from diet and/or sunlight, while 28% say they aren’t aware of the benefits of taking them.

When asked about purchasing vitamin D fortified foods, the majority of respondents (74%) say they do not buy any foods or drinks because they are fortified with vitamin D.

Commenting on the findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation said: “A balanced diet can give us most of the nutrients we need. But vitamin D is an exception because our main source is UV exposure from sunlight on skin and there are relatively few rich dietary sources. We have seen little improvement in vitamin D status in the population in recent years. So, it is really important that we raise awareness of the need to consider supplements from October to March to make sure we are getting the vitamin D we need to keep us healthy.

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