The Department of Health is today advising that adults aged 65 and older take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they get the essential vitamin D needed for bone and muscle health.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health requested the Scientific Committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) to examine the vitamin D status of this older population and provide scientific recommendations on vitamin D supplementation. The FSAI report found that older people in Ireland do not get sufficient vitamin D from their diet or the effect of sunlight on their skin.
Based on the evidence provided in the FSAI Report, the Department of Health is providing population health guidance for vitamin D supplementation for older people.
The recommendation is that adults aged 65 and older take a vitamin D supplement of 15 micrograms (15μg) every day to ensure they get the essential vitamin D needed for bone and muscle health.
This vitamin D supplement can be taken in three ways: as a multi-vitamin supplement that contains 15 microgram (15μg) of vitamin D; as a calcium and vitamin D supplement that contains 15 microgram (15μg) of vitamin D or as a vitamin D only supplement that contains 15 microgram (15μg) of vitamin D.
People who are currently taking a vitamin D supplement that has been prescribed by a doctor or a nurse and that contains more than 15 microgram (15μg) can continue to take the supplement prescribed.
Speaking about the new policy recommendation, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said: “Vitamin D is essential for good bone and muscle health as we get older. In fact, there is a strong link between frailty and low vitamin D status in older adults. This link may actually lead to a cycle that sees people being frail due to low vitamin D status which then prevents them from being mobile and going outdoors and then in turn this further contributes to poor Vitamin D intake.
"The guidance issued by my Department today on adequate vitamin D supplementation for those aged 65 and older will help to prevent this cycle. It is great that people are living longer and it is really important to support healthy ageing so they can continue to lead happy and full lives.”
Minister of State for Public Health and Wellbeing, Frank Feighan TD commented: “This guidance represents a significant step towards helping to ensure adequate vitamin D intake over the life-course. It builds on existing Department policy on vitamin D supplementation for children up to one year of age and our recently launched guidance on vitamin D supplementation for 1-4 year olds. We want to promote the development of strong bones from an early age and maintain good bone and muscle health in older people. The diets of older adults should also include regular intakes of natural sources of vitamin D, such as oily fish, eggs, meats and vitamin D-fortified foods.”
The FSAI report also reviewed the available evidence in relation to vitamin D supplements being taken to prevent or treat COVID-19. The FSAI report acknowledged that there is limited research available and have concluded that there is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to specifically prevent or treat COVID-19. They also reported the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition conclusions that the evidence on vitamin D supplementation and acute respiratory tract infection risk was inconsistent and generally did not show a beneficial effect of vitamin D supplementation on infectious disease risk.