News & Updates

Campaign urges vitamin D supplements during winter

People of all ages should take a daily 10-microgram vitamin D supplement this winter, according to a national marketing campaign being launched by Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

The promotional effort will run until February 2022, and aims to raise awareness of the important role vitamin D plays in supporting bone and muscle health.

The message will be delivered via prime-time national television advertising over the next 11 weeks, adverts on social media, and content within the national, regional and local press. The marketing push will also involve regular digital and social media posts by FSS and its partner organisations, and display stands being placed in shopping locations across Scotland.

A full evaluation will then take place to understand what behaviour change has taken place, due to the campaign.

This is FSS’s second marketing push highlighting the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements, following one in the first three months of 2021.

Vitamin D has a number of important functions in the body and is needed to support bone and muscle health. A deficiency in adulthood and later life can lead to a greater risk of broken bones.

Alana McDonald, Senior Public Health Nutrition Advisor at Food Standards Scotland, said that following the first 3-month campaign at the start of this year, more than half (54%) of those who saw the marketing content, then took action as a result – by starting to take vitamin D supplements.

“Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need from a healthy, balanced diet - but vitamin D is an exception because it is only found in small amounts in some foods, including oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolk, and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals,” she said.

“The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. In Scotland, we only get enough of the right kind of sunlight for our bodies to make vitamin D between April and September, meaning for roughly half the year (between October and March) it is not possible for our bodies to make vitamin D from sunlight.

“Since it is so difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, we are encouraging everyone to take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, particularly between October and March. You can buy vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D (for under 5s) over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets.

“This latest vitamin D supplement advice is relevant for everyone in Scotland, and so we want to reach as many people as possible.”

Minister for Public Health, Women's Health & Sport Maree Todd said:

“Throughout life, vitamin D is essential for keeping our bones and muscles healthy. That is why we recommend that everyone in Scotland consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly during the winter months when we can’t make vitamin D from sunlight.

“Some people, including infants and children under 5 years, people who have low or no exposure to the sun, and people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin, are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and should take a daily supplement all year round.

“In Scotland, children under 12 months and breastfeeding women are provided with free vitamin D supplements and Healthy Start vitamins, which contain Vitamin D, are provided free to all pregnant women throughout their pregnancy.

“Raising awareness of vitamin D and current advice on supplementation is incredibly important and I welcome this latest campaign from Food Standards Scotland.”

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