Situation in the UK:
- 86% of the population are deficient in the winter and 57% in the summer even when living in the South of the country making Vitamin D deficiency almost the norm. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread throughout the UK. (120)
- In Scotland the figures are worse with 92% of the population being deficient in the winter and 75% in the summer.(120) The situation is so severe that some experts have suggested Vitamin D deficiency accounts for the poor state of health in the country. The incidence of cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis are some of the highest in the world. For more on the situation in Scotland click here.
- Children in the UK have vitamin D levels that are barely able to prevent rickets (20ng/ml) This is far below the level considered optimal (>40ng/ml). Dark skinned children are in an even worse situation with levels between 14-17ngs/ml (91)
- Dark skinned people need six times as long in the sun as white people to make the same amount of vitamin D. This makes the Asian population in the UK particularly at risk of severe vitamin D deficiency.(124, 125) (2)
- Rickets is an increasingly common condition found in Asian children resulting in experts calling for the Asian community to receive supplements. (157)
- Elderly patients are often deficient the whole year round with levels in the summer of 14ng/ml and 9.2ng/ml in the winter. (93) Such low levels result in muscle and bone weakness which increases the likelihood of falls and hence bone fractures. (94,95)
Why is the situation so severe?
- The UK lies at a latitude of 51-61degrees north, which is about the same as Hudson’s Bay in Canada. At these latitudes no vitamin D can be made for between 6 and 7 months of the year as UV radiation is too weak. In Scotland and similar Northern regions the ‘vitamin D winter’ is even longer. (99) Persistent cloud cover and pollution limit UV exposure even in the summer.
- An indoor lifestyle, wearing of long clothes and the governments advice to avoid exposure to the sun, due to fears of contracting skin cancer all make vitamin D deficiency a more serious problem.
- The official advice in the UK is that no supplementation is needed for those under the age of 50. Those over 65, are pregnant or lactating are told that 400IU/day of vitamin D is adequate. This, however is known by experts in the area to be a grossly inadequate amount of vitamin D to maintain optimal levels (96-97)
- June 2007 the Canadian Cancer Society issued a statement advising all citizens of Canada to take Vitamin D to reduce their risk of developing cancer and other serious debilitating conditions.
What about the rest of the world?
- In France the average Vitamin D level in winter is only 8.4ngs/ml (92) and in Germany 12ngs/ml demonstrating severe deficiency. (91) (optimal levels are thought to be >40ng/ml)
- Even countries with a great deal of sun have a deficiency problem. In Kuwait almost 100% of the population are thought to be suffering from deficiency due to the custom of keeping the body completely covered. (154)
- 60% of babies born in Kuwait are Vitamin D deficient due to poor maternal levels. Average maternal and infant levels were 13.3 (6.5) ng/mL and 8.2 (6.5) ng/mL respectively. (<15ng/nl is deficient).(155)
- One in seven US teenagers are deficient and Afro-American teens have 20 times the risk of being deficient compared to white teenagers. (156)
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Vitamin D3 Deficiency in the United Kingdom