Vitamin D Deficiency in Ireland
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent across the population of Ireland. The Oireachtas have recommended that every adult should take vitamin D supplements.
Evidence was presented to The Oireachtas Committee that vitamin D deficiency is widespread in people across Ireland. A report has been issued recommending preventative public health measures to combat vitamin D deficiency. As a public health measure, vitamin D supplements have been recommended for all adults in Ireland.
Joint Committee on Health Report
In April 2021, the Joint Committee on Health released a report to address vitamin D deficiency in Ireland as a public health measure.
The Oireachtas report states that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent across the entire population in the Republic of Ireland. As part of an enhanced public health policy, the report recommends preventative public health measures to help fight widespread low levels of vitamin D in people.
A committee of TDs and Senators heard evidence from health experts on the role of vitamin D in preventing poor health and respiratory illnesses. They stated that vitamin D delivers positive health outcomes. The report highlighted that vitamin D deficiency is very common in Ireland. It stressed the importance of tackling this major health issue.
The panel of health experts are members of the Covit-D consortium. This included Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Professor James Bernard Walsh, Professor John Faul, Dr. Martin Healy and Dr. Daniel McCartney. Discussing the coronavirus pandemic, the report also highlighted the connection between vitamin D deficiency and severe Covid-19 symptoms in patients.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
The Committee reviewed and confirmed that medical evidence supports that vitamin D is important in supporting human health. It assists the immune system in fighting harmful bacteria, viruses and respiratory infections. This is of significant importance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Check out our comprehensive article on vitamin D to find out all you need to know about the sunshine vitamin.
Vitamin D Deficiency Causes
Vitamin D deficiency is defined as having levels of vitamin D below normal in the body. Not having enough vitamin D in your body is damaging for general health and your immune system.
Vitamin D can be accessed naturally through exposure to the sun. There are also certain food sources. In Ireland, there is a lack of sufficient sunshine, which causes vitamin D deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, muscle weakness, fatigue and a depressed mood. This can compromise our immune response. Low levels can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
The committee also heard about a TILDA study (Data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging). The research showed that people over 50 are 75% more likely to experience depression if they are vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D Deficiency Statistics
The Joint Committee on Health Oireachtas report released some statistics on the prevalence of low levels of vitamin D across the population in Ireland. It is widespread across all age groups.
Key statistics include:
- 47% of people aged 18 to 39 years old are vitamin D deficient.
- 35% of people aged 50 to 59 years old are vitamin D deficient.
- 64% of people aged over 80 years old are vitamin D deficient.
Public Health Recommendations
The Oireachtas report has issued a number of recommendations regarding vitamin D supplements and their use for vitamin d deficiency treatment. Public health measures are non-medical interventions used to help prevent illnesses and disease.
The recommendations include:
- Vitamin D supplements should be taken by the entire adult population, as a public health measure. They recommend daily vitamin D supplementation for adults of between 20 µg (800 IU) and 25 µg (1000 IU) every day, and potentially higher doses for vulnerable people under medical supervision. It is recommended that children should take 10µg (400 IU) daily.
- A public health policy should be developed to promote the benefits of vitamin D and to encourage supplementation.
- Vulnerable groups, frontline staff and healthcare workers should be provided with vitamin D supplements.
- At covid-19 testing centres, people should be provided with vitamin D supplements for the duration of the pandemic.
Vitamin D Supplements
Health Committee Chairman Seán Crowe TD said that “international studies show just how effective daily vitamin D supplementation can be when it is implemented as part of an enhanced public health policy”. He also stated that “supplementation represents a safe, practical, and effective means of protecting human health.”
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Vitamin D Deficiency Questions
Vitamin D deficiency is the body having inadequate levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D can compromise our immune response as well as causing symptoms including bone pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, a depressed mood and rickets in children.
- People who do not get enough exposure to sunlight.
- People with darker skin.
- Older people
- Pregnant women.
- Those with a vitamin D metabolism health condition.
- People who are vegetarian or vegan.