Brits need better access to supplements to protect their health from low vitamin D levels, says NICE as it publishes new guidelines.
After it was revealed that some one in five adults and one in six children may have low vitamin D, new NICE public health guidelines are focusing on effective ways to increase vitamin D supplement use to prevent deficiency among the at risk.
The guideline recommends that better supplement availability, more awareness of low vitamin D status and consistent information on who is most at risk are essential in tackling the problem.
NICE acknowledges that some groups are already advised to take a supplement, but adds that information and support isn’t always reaching the groups at risk, for example, people with darker skin, such as people from African, Caribbean and Asian backgrounds, who are at risk of having low vitamin D levels.
Among the recommendations, NICE’s guidelines include increasing access to vitamin D supplements containing the recommended dose, with the Department of Health needing to work with manufacturers of vitamin D supplements to ensure products contain the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for health. NICE also that local authorities should ensure supplements containing the recommended amount of vitamin D are widely available for all at-risk groups in local settings, such as pharmacies, children’s centres, and GP reception areas.
National activities should be developed to raise awareness about the importance of vitamin D among doctors, nurses, other professionals and the public, emphasising the importance of vitamin D for good health, the limitations of UK sources of vitamin D via sunlight and food, and the importance of a daily supplement providing the recommend amount of vitamin D for identified at-risk groups.
Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the independent committee which developed the NICE guidance, commented: “This guidance is about preventing vitamin D deficiency by improving awareness of vitamin D deficiency through national activities and systems to enable people who are most at risk to take a vitamin D supplement. The NICE guidance says that clearer recommendations are needed from all organisations involved in tackling low vitamin D levels. Better availability of free or low cost supplements and promotion by health professionals during routine consultations could help increase uptake and improve the health of new mothers and their children.”
Professor Adrian Martineau, NICE Guidance Developer and Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London, added: “The guideline underlines the need to help health professionals develop better awareness of the importance of vitamin D, and identifies training and continuing professional development as good opportunities for this. The guideline also advises that health professionals should recommend and record daily vitamin D supplement use to people at risk of low levels, at every available opportunity. For example, this means asking people at risk during routine appointments and check-ups, child developmental checks, or when registering at a practice. The guideline recommends ensuring that computerised prompts on vitamin D are integrated into health and social care systems to support health professionals in making this a routine activity. These changes will help shape the system to make it easier for people who need vitamin D to get it.”