KUALA LUMPUR, August 20 — A study in the United Kingdom has recommended that vitamin D be added to flour to help prevent new cases of deficiency. It is estimated that such a move could prevent 10 million new cases over the next nine decades.
In the UK, the average daily vitamin D intake is below the Reference Nutritional Intake of 400 IU per day. 20 percent of adults and 16 percent of children aged between 11 and 18 years are estimated to be deficient in Vitamin D.
Researchers suggest that current UK supplementation policies are not working, and that vulnerable groups, in particular would be affected.
The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that mandatory fortification of wheat flour would be a cost effective measure which would significantly reduce the burden on the National Health Service (NHS).
It further recommended that subsidised vitamin D supplements to targeted sub-populations such as children, the elderly, black, asian and other ethnic minorities be done to prevent an additional eight per cent of new cases.
With wheat flour fortification and targeted supplementation combined, 33 per cent or 13.2 million of cases of vitamin D deficiency in the UK could be prevented.
Adding the vitamin to flour would cost 12p (RM 0.60) per person per year.
It would save the taxpayer £65 million (RM 330 million) a year by reducing demand for healthcare and treatment due to vitamin D deficiency and related complications.
The new strategy proposes to add 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per 100g of flour. It would also offer free dietary supplements at a dose of 400 IU for children aged up to 18, and doses of 800 IU for all those aged over 65.
This would cost £250 million (RM 1.267 billion) over 90 years which is equivalent to 38p (RM 1.92) per person.
Similar national food fortification initiatives in Finland have been successful in reducing vitamin D deficiency from 13 percent to 0.6 percent of the population.
Vitamin D is needed for skeletal growth and bone health. Deficiency can lead to rickets, soft bones, bone pain and muscle weakness.