Vitamin D supplements can benefit people of all ages, according to new guidance from Public Health England.
Getting enough vitamin D is a particular concern for older people around the year, as they can struggle to get enough sunlight especially if they are isolated and don't leave their home on a regular basis.
Low levels of it can cause problems with brittle bones, which can be especially devastating for older people who may be at a higher risk of falling. However, it is estimated that around one in five adults aren't getting enough vitamin D.
A new review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has suggested that everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter.
Off the back of these findings, Public Health England has issued new guidelines that indicate that everyone in the UK should look into taking supplements to help them get the ten micrograms they need each day to protect bone and muscle health.
During the spring and summer months this is largely unnecessary as the majority of the population get enough vitamin D through sunlight on the skin and a healthy, balanced diet. However, when there is less sunshine people rely solely on diet for their intake of vitamin D.
Dr Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: "A healthy, balanced diet and short bursts of sunshine will mean most people get all the vitamin D they need in spring and summer.
"However, everyone will need to consider taking a supplement in the autumn and winter if you don’t eat enough foods that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with it. And those who don’t get out in the sun or always cover their skin when they do, should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year," he explained.
Encouraging older people to do more activities outside can be a fantastic way to boost the amount of vitamin D they get, as well as improving their mental health by enabling them to socialise with others. Of course, it can be a struggle to get elderly people to stay active throughout the winter months, and this is when having a fully balanced diet is crucial for health.
Most of the vitamin D we all get comes from sunlight, but foods like oily fish and eggs also contain it. Having professionals plan meals for older people can be one of the best ways to ensure they are as healthy - physically and mentally - as possible.
It's not always possible to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed through diet, especially if there are also health problems to consider. If this is the case, dieticians can help devise a plan that supports diet to help ensure that they aren't at risk of suffering from any deficiencies. They are also well-positioned to decide whether additional supplements could be beneficial during the winter months to avoid the risk of health problems.