The UK Government has announced that 2.5 million clinically extremely vulnerable adults across England will be offered free vitamin D supplements for the winter. Individuals on the clinically extremely vulnerable list will receive a letter inviting them to opt in for a supply to be delivered directly to their homes.
Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January 2021 and will provide 4 months’ worth of supplements to last people through the winter months, this is due to a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency in this group of people who may have spent more time indoors this year.
What if I am not clinically extremely vulnerable?
The advice from Public Health England is for everybody to take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy.
Sometimes the amount of vitamin D is expressed as International Units (IU). 1 microgram of Vitamin D is equal to 40 IU, so 10 micrograms of vitamin D is equal to 400 IU.
If your doctor has advised you to take a different amount of vitamin D you should follow their advice.
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause calcium to build up in the body, this can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and heart.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
From about late March /early April most people should be able to get all of the vitamin D they need from sunlight. Our body makes vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when you are outdoors.
Good sources of vitamin D
Between October and early March we do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is also found from a small number of foods, which include:
- Oily fish- such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
COVID 19 and Vitamin D
Evidence of the link between vitamin D and COVID-19 is still being researched with larger scale trials needed. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) will review the existing evidence.
The link to the advice on Gov.uk can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/at-risk-groups-to-receive-free-winter-supply-of-vitamin-d