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Creating Health Team
Area 3E
St Andrew's House
1 Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Email: CreatingHealthTeam@gov.scot

Vitamin D

Following recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), Scottish Government advice on vitamin D for all age groups has been updated as follows:

Everyone (all adults and children) age 5 and above

Everyone age 5 years and above should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October – March).

Between late March/early April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D. 

From October to March, everyone aged 5 and over will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D.  Since vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone. 

The current guidance on sun exposure should be followed: 10–15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sun exposure is safe for all. Once sunscreen is correctly applied, vitamin D synthesis is blocked. Staying in the sun for prolonged periods without the protection of sunscreen increases the risk of skin cancer.

Ages 1- 4 years

Children aged 1 to 4 years of age should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D. We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for all children in health.

Birth to 1 year

It is recommended that all babies from birth up to one year of age should be given a daily supplement of 8.5 to 10 micrograms vitamin D as a precaution.

Babies fed infant formula do not require a vitamin D supplement if they are having at least 500 mls (about a pint) per day as infant formula already has added vitamin D and no other supplementation is required.

We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for infants. Neonatologists and paediatricians may recommend alternatives for premature infants, children with clinical conditions or clinical presentations of vitamin D deficiency.

A new-born baby’s vitamin D level depends on their mother’s levels near the birth and will be higher if the mother took a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy. Some mothers and babies have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those born to mothers who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdoors and those from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin.

Groups recommended to take supplements all year round

It is recommended that those at greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency take a daily supplement all year round. These groups include:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding mothers

  • children under 5 years of age

  • people who are not exposed to much sunlight, such as frail or housebound individuals, or those that cover their skin for cultural reasons; and

  • people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because they require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D.

The full SACN report Vitamin D and Health is available here

Vitamin D – Key facts

  • Vitamin D is essential for good bone health.

  • Vitamin D deficiency can cause Rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. For more information on Rickets and Osteomalacia visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rickets/pages/introduction.aspx

  • We get vitamin D from sunlight and some foods

  • The majority of us get most of the vitamin D we need from sunlight.

  • Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods but it is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.

  • Sunbeds are not a recommended source of vitamin D.

    Supplements

    Single vitamin D supplements are widely available to buy from major supermarkets, health food stores and high street pharmacies.

    Breastfeeding women and children up to age 4 who are eligible for Healthy Start are entitled to free vitamin supplements. More information is available here.

    From April 2017, Healthy Start vitamins for women (which provide vitamin D, folic acid and vitamin C) are provided free of charge to all pregnant women in Scotland for the duration of their pregnancy, regardless of their entitlement to the Healthy Start scheme.

    The current Healthy Start vitamin tablets for pregnant and lactating women contain the correct dosage. The current Healthy Start drops for children contain 7.5 micrograms of vitamin D in the recommended 5 drops per day. Parents are advised to continue to give this dose until the current vitamin drops are replaced by the increased dosage drops. These will be available from October 2018.

    Further advice is available from your Health professional (Midwife, Health Visitor or Doctor).

    Further information

    General information leaflets on vitamin D for both the public and healthcare professionals are available online at

    Public (http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/5274.aspx)

    Healthcare Professionals (http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/5273.aspx)

    New guidance has been developed for parents and healthcare professionals to support parents to follow the new recommendation. This includes advice on how to administer vitamin D drops to young babies. These are available online at:

    Parents http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2019/06/1934

    Healthcare Professionals http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/11/7781