The United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has come out with new recommendations on how much vitamin D adults and children should be getting in order to ensure optimal bone and skin health. The recommendations also specifically target pregnant women and groups known to be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, such as dark-skinned individuals and those who are confined indoors or regularly cover their skin when going outside. The recommendations were issued after a review was conducted in response to a 2010 request from the Department of Health.
The specific recommendations are as follows:
A reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 10 micrograms was recommended for the general population aged four years-old or older
An RNI of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day for pregnant or lactating women as well as for groups at-risk of deficiency
A ‘safe’ intake of 8.5 to 10 micrograms per day was specified for newborns and infants up to one year in age
The available data for infants between one and four years-old is not sufficient to issue an RNI, so a precautionary safe intake of 10 micrograms is provided
The difference between a “safe” intake and an RNI is that an RNI is the amount that has been determined by evidence to support proper nutrition. A “safe” amount means that there is enough evidence to say no harm will come from maintaining the specified level of nutrition, but not much more.
The SANC was not able to take into account vitamin D derived from sunlight exposure in making its recommendation. This is because the level of sunlight the average person receives, as well as how well that sunlight is absorbed by the skin and turned into vitamin D, varies considerably from person to person. As a result, the RNI and safe intake levels refer to vitamin D obtained from any source including natural food sources, fortified foods, or vitamin supplements.
The RNI levels were recommended because the SANC determined it was the best amount to maintain average vitamin D levels over a prolonged period of time, such as a week or longer. This means that the recommendations do take into account day-to-day variations in how much vitamin D someone gets and acknowledges that people can get vitamin D in greater or lower than the RNI amounts on any given day.
Vitamin D’s role in maintaining bone and skin health has been known for quite some time, but the researches into the nuances of this nutrient have been ongoing for years. These new recommendations, the first issued for vitamin D since 1991, are the result of that research being used to refine and iterate on public health policy and will likely see future changes as more discoveries are made.
“SACN publishes new recommendations on vitamin D,” Gov.UK web site, July 21, 2016; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539596/SACN_Vitamin_D_Press_Release_July_2016.pdf, last accessed July 22, 2016.