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Vitamin D recommended for ‘at risk’ groups

By Tim Sandle     Dec 29, 2014 in Health
London - In the U.K., the government has recommended that certain vulnerable groups take vitamin D supplements as part of a health promotion measure. Digital Journal assesses the reasons.
Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Vitamin D is, in fact, a complex of chemicals and the term refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids (a type of steroid.) These chemicals are responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc.
According to the U.K. Department of Health, a lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
With most people, vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure and from certain types of food. For others, the essential vitamin can be derived from supplements. With food, the choices are limited for very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, and egg yolks. Some foods, such as some breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milks and fat spreads, have vitamin D added to them.
With sunlight, this is obviously variable depending upon the part of the world someone resides in and the time of year. The sun is less likely to provide your daily needs at higher latitudes, in the winter, or if you're older or dark skinned (skin pigment blocks light and the process is less efficient with age). In addition, excessive exposure to sunlight brings with it the risk of skin cancer.
Given the importance of vitamin D, the U.K. Department of Health has identified some “at risk” groups, who may be deficient in the vitamin. These groups include:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women. It is important that women take a vitamin D supplement throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding to ensure they get enough vitamin D and that their baby is born with enough vitamin D for early infancy.
Infants and young children,
Older people,
Those who have low or no exposure to sunlight,
People with darker skin.
The U.K. National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme (2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012) indicated that up to 1 in 4 adults in the U.K. have a low vitamin D status, and are therefore at increased risk of deficiency.
Due to concerns with low intake and with the vulnerable groups, the health department has embarked on a promotion campaign and it has produced information leaflets.
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