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RCOG statement: New NICE public health guidance on Vitamin D supplementation

News 26 November 2014

Today NICE publish new public health guidance - Vitamin D: increasing supplement use among at-risk groups.

The new guideline focuses on effective ways to increase vitamin D supplement use to prevent deficiency among people who are at risk.

Groups at higher risk of having a low vitamin D status include:

  • All pregnant and breastfeeding women, especially teenagers and young women
  • Infants and young children under 5 years
  • Older people aged 65 and older
  • People who have low or no exposure to the sun. For example, people who cover their skin for cultural reasons, or who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
  • People who have darker skin because their bodies are not able to make as much vitamin D. For example, people of African, African–Caribbean and South Asian origin.

The guideline recommendations include:

  • Increase access to vitamin D supplements containing the recommended dose. The Department of Health should work with manufacturers of vitamin D supplements to ensure that products contain the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for health. The Department of Health should also amend existing legislation to allow Healthy Start vitamins to be more widely distributed and sold, and encourage manufacturers to sell them direct to pharmacies.
  • Local authorities should ensure supplements containing the recommended amount of vitamin D are widely available for all at-risk groups in local settings such as pharmacies, children’s centres, and GP reception areas.
  • Health professionals should not routinely test people’s vitamin D status unless they have symptoms of deficiency, they are considered to be at particularly high risk of deficiency, or there is a clinical reason to do so
  • National activities should be developed to raise awareness about the importance of vitamin D among doctors, nurses, other professionals and the public.

Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG Vice President, Clinical Quality, welcomes this new public health guidance:

“Vitamin D supplementation is safe in pregnancy. Existing NICE guidance state that all pregnant and breastfeeding women should be informed about the importance of vitamin D and should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements daily.

“Some pregnant women have low levels of vitamin D, however, women with pigmented or covered skin, women who are obese or immobile are at a higher risk of deficiency. These women may be advised to take a higher dose of vitamin D.

“Low vitamin D levels have been associated with a wide range of adverse maternal and child health outcomes. Taking supplements can improve your baby’s growth during his or her first year of life, and can reduce their risk of developing rickets for example.

“Healthcare professionals should ensure the women they talk to, in particular those at higher risk of deficiency, are aware of the importance of supplementation and the health benefits to them and their baby.”

Ends

For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

Notes

Read the new RCOG Patient Information on healthy eating and vitamin supplements in pregnancy