Vitamin D is really important for keeping everyone’s bones and muscles healthy.
Not getting enough of it can lead to bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults – or softening of the bones – which increases the risk of breaks and fractures.
However we estimate that a third of people in Scotland have low levels of vitamin D.
Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need from a healthy, balanced diet.
Why do we need to supplement it?
But vitamin D is an exception because it is only found in small amounts in some foods, including eggs, cereals and spreads with added vitamin D and oil rich fish including salmon and mackerel.
Sunshine is actually our main source of vitamin D, and is made by direct sunlight on the skin when we are outdoors.
The problem in Scotland is that we only get enough of the right kind of sunlight for our bodies to make vitamin D between April and September, so during the other half of the year it is not possible for our bodies to make vitamin D from sunlight.
That’s why we encourage everyone to take a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly over the winter months when we cannot make vitamin D from the sun.
At this time of year, during the dark winter months, there is plenty written about vitamin D in the media. There has also been a lot of speculation about the possible benefit of vitamin D on Covid-19.
The consensus scientific evidence is insufficient to definitively support this, however the evidence continues to highlight the important role of vitamin D in keeping our bones and muscles healthy.
Staying healthy during winter
So against this background, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has this week launched the second part of one of our biggest promotional campaigns which takes place until the end of February next year.
It is aimed squarely at encouraging everyone to take a daily 10-microgram vitamin D supplement to help us stay healthy this winter.
The first half of the campaign ran from January to March, and we were hugely encouraged by the results. That three-month marketing effort was seen 6.5 million times across social media, with videos watched around 92,000 times.
Our analysis found more than half (54%) of those who saw the campaign took action as a result – by starting to take vitamin D supplements.
And so we want that momentum to continue.
Everyone can buy vitamin D supplements, or vitamin D drops for children, over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets.
It’s a simple, easy, scientifically proven, and relatively cheap way to maintain our vitamin D levels.
The benefits are clear – by adding vitamin D we can all add a little bit more sunshine to our lives.
- Alana McDonald is Senior Public Health Nutrition Advisor at FSS