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Advice on Vitamin D
A new leaflet aimed at increasing awareness of the recommended vitamin D levels is to be sent to all GPs and Health professionals.
The information, produced by NHS Health Scotland, will be issued on Monday (September 20) and will advise that the following groups of people may be at risk from deficiency:
- All pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Children under five years of age
- Those aged 65 years and over
- People who are not exposed to much sunlight - for example those who are housebound
- People who have darker skin
Those at risk will be advised to increase their vitamin D intake by including more oily fish, eggs and meat in their diets and taking a supplement.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
"We know that in Scotland the winter sun is not strong enough to provide the minimum vitamin D needed for health - especially for those with darker skin.
"A significant proportion of the UK population has low vitamin D levels. This leaflet aims to ensure that those at risk are aware of the implications of vitamin D deficiency and know what they can do to prevent it.
"Vitamin D is key to maintaining healthy bones. Young children have a high risk of deficiency and we are seeing an increase in reported cases of rickets in Scotland. These conditions are easily prevented by improving diet and taking a supplement if you are at risk.
"Recent research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to a range of other medical conditions. The Scottish Government are keen to continue to monitor this evidence."
Ms Sturgeon will be addressing the Shine on Scotland conference on Tuesday. The conference will bring together academics from across the globe to discuss the possible links between vitamin D deficiency and health.
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining good bone health. Conditions such as rickets in children, and osteomalacia in adults, are the best understood consequences of vitamin D deficiency.
In Scotland we only get enough sunlight of the right wavelength (UVB) to create vitamin D in this manner for approximately half the year (April - September). For the rest of the year, people in Scotland are dependent on vitamin D stores that have built up during these summer months, and on other sources such as dietary intake and supplements.
10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day in Scotland are thought to be safe for all skin types
Women and children participating in Healthy Start can get free supplements containing vitamin D. The women's supplements provide 10 µg/day, and the children's vitamin drops provide 7.5 µg/day. NHS Boards are responsible for supplying Healthy Start vitamin supplements.
Single vitamin D supplements are available to buy commercially in high street chemists and health food stores.
The Scottish Government follow the advice of the Scientific Advisory Committee on nutrition and vitamin supplements:
- All pregnant and breastfeeding women / 10 µg/day
- Infants aged 1-6 months who are exclusively breastfed and where the mother has a low vitamin D statuS / 7.5 µg/day
- All infants and children aged from 6 months to 5 years, unless they are drinking 500 ml (a pint) or more of infant formula a day (only recommended for children up to the age of 1 year) / 7.5 µg/day
- People who are not exposed to much sun, e.g. housebound individuals and those who cover their skin for cultural reasons / 10 µg/day
- All people aged 65 years and over, in particular those living in institutions or who are not regularly exposed to sunlight / 10 µg/day