The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in the UK has published a new recommendation that everybody over the age of 1 year should consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily.
Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphate in the body and is essential for bone health. Without adequate vitamin D, children can develop thin and brittle bones which may progress to rickets. In adults vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which causes pain and osteomalacia. There is also limited evidence that low vitamin D status may be associated with other chronic diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin D can be made in the skin by exposure to the suns UVB rays. Regular sun exposure, without sunscreen, before burning occurs allows for adequate vitamin D synthesis. Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, eggs, and fortified dairy and cereal products. This new dietary recommendation has been made due to the fact that UK residents do not have year-long sunshine exposure and therefore need adequate dietary vitamin D to prevent deficiency.
It might be assumed that Singapore’s geographical location in the tropics and daily sunshine would mean that Singapore’s population would be protected from vitamin D deficiency. However 2 studies in recent years have shown that this is not the case. A study in 2013 found vitamin D deficiency in particular sub-sections of Singapore’s population (10% Malay females, 33% Indian females, 25% Indian males). Another study in 2016 found evidence of vitamin D deficiency in 54% of females residing in Singapore and 30% males. Study numbers were small (240 and 114 participants respectively) but the results are noteworthy nonetheless.
According to the SACN report, those at risk of vitamin D deficiency are the following groups: people with dark skin from African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds; people who are confined indoors, such as those in care homes, and people who habitually cover up their skin while outdoors.
In light of the above information, it would be prudent for individuals living in Singapore who meet any of the at-risk criteria, safely increase sunlight exposure and/or ensure a daily intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily.
Click here for information on the SACN report.
Click here for further information on dietary sources of vitamin D.
Click here for information on safe sun exposure.