06 Sep 2017 --- Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have discovered that one in eight adults over the age of 50 living in Ireland is vitamin D deficient. According to the research, this increases to one in four over winter, and 5 percent of adults over 50 are even vitamin D deficient during summer. The study has implications for people living in sunlight-starved countries across the globe and has led to calls for public health policy to consider supplementation.
“Ideally in a perfect world we would get all our vitamin D from sunlight or from foods naturally, though in most countries we can't due to either the seasonality of sunlight (there is also the skin cancer risk of UV light to consider) or the lack of fortification of foods (particulary in Ireland where there is no set Government policy and few foods are fortified),” Dr. Eamon Laird, who led the research, tells NutritionInsight. “Thus in countries such as Ireland, supplementation at the moment is probably the best and only way until we get policy change.”
“Vitamin D is all over the news at the moment and it can be confusing with some studies showing a benefit and others not,” Laird adds. “Probably not enough information is given to the public about how they can increase their vitamin D – even simple steps such as upping oily fish intakes, increasing vitamin D fortified food intakes, increasing egg or increasing vitamin D-rich foods would help.”
Relevant for sunlight-starved nations
The TILDA researchers’ paper examined the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency by age, economic status and lifestyle factors, and investigated what the main determinants of deficiency were in the older population in Ireland. These results are of relevance not just for Ireland but for all countries that experience seasonal variation in sunlight.
One in eight older adults were deficient in vitamin D and this increased to one in four during the winter period. Even during the summer period – when the body normally produces vitamin D – 5 percent of adults were deficient.
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