Parliamentary meeting discusses Vitamin D and Osteoporosis

Steve Brine attended the All-Party Parliamentary Osteoporosis Group (APPOG) meeting on Tuesday 1st November to discuss how to implement the recent government guidance that stated that people in the UK were not receiving adequate vitamin D, a vital component in keeping bones strong and healthy.

The UK's leading bone charity, the National Osteoporosis Society, is calling for a national level working group to look at how people in the UK can get the vitamin D they need. The meeting at Portcullis House in Westminster was the first time that a group of cross-industry experts has met to discuss the issue, in what is hoped will be the beginning of a strategic discussion to provide recommendations for the UK.

Steve Brine said: "The recent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report found that people need 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily, an amount that currently many in our population are not able to achieve."

During the meeting, speakers from across the scientific arenas of health and nutrition discussed the role of vitamin D in health, the latest thinking from the government and how people could achieve the recommendations set out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).

Guests were invited from a number of trade associations such as the Food and Drink Federation and the Health Food Manufacturer's Association, invited by the National Osteoporosis Society who manage the secretariat function for APPOG.

Steve continued: "Today's event, which heard from Dr Louise Dolan, a consultant rheumatologist from my constituency, brought together debate from across the medical, scientific and nutrition arenas and it's clear that we urgently need a plan for our constituents to help them with their vitamin D intake, to ensure they are kept healthy and fit, and to clarify the current confusion around methods of intake."

Vitamin D is vital to help your body absorb calcium which is needed for bones to give them strength and rigidity. Strong bones, a healthy active lifestyle and good nutrition help people in the UK to age well. Keeping bones strong can help to prevent broken bones that result from osteoporosis which cause pain, disability and loss of independence.

The guidance from SACN recommends that children over the age of one and adults need 10micrograms of vitamin D every day to keep their bones strong and healthy, in addition to what we already get through the sun.

Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D but the SACN experts were not able to recommend how much sunlight exposure different people need in order to get their 10micrograms every day, which is why additional sources are vital.

Only a small proportion of naturally occurring vitamin D comes from food. For example 119g of herring gives 19.2micrograms, with two eggs giving only 3.3micrograms. Fortification of food and milk with vitamin D already takes place in several countries including the US, Canada and Finland. There are also a range of supplements but better labelling, and consumer education, are needed to ensure that people have the right amount.

The latest advice from Public Health England is that everyone over the age of one should "consider taking a daily supplement of 10mcg (400 iu) of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter". People at higher risk of deficiency, children aged one to four and breastfed babies under one, should take it all year round.

Babies under one who are bottle-fed don't need supplements because formula milk has vitamin D added. Supplements can be bought over the counter at pharmacists and supermarkets, health visitors can advise about vitamin D drops for babies and they are available free to low-income families through the Healthy Start scheme.

Pictured; Steve Brine joins Fizz Thompson from the National Osteoporosis Society

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National Osteoporosis Society