A new study published by academics at the University of Birmingham suggests that adding vitamin D to wheat flour could prevent ten million new cases of deficiency in England and Wales over the next nine decades.
Such mandatory fortification of flour – similar to the proposed folic acid fortification currently being considered by Government – would be significantly cost-saving for the over-burdened NHS.
According to lead researcher Dr Magda Aguiar, the UK requires ‘a multi-disciplinary approach’ to address its problem vitamin D deficiency; she suggests a combination of wheat flour fortification and targeted supplementation, stating that it could go as far as preventing 13.2 million cases of deficiency of the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
This will lead to significant benefits for the population, particularly the most vulnerable groups
Aguiar’s study – published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition – highlights an estimated £65 million of public spending which would be saved, should the Government decide to amend current policy. The estimated cost of implementation at a national level would equate to 12p per person per year – a sum Aguiar says would be ‘more than compensated for’ by the prevention of such conditions as rickets, bone pain, muscle weakness and soft bones.
Aguiar comments: “While both supplements and fortified foods are important sources of vitamin D for the UK population, evidence suggests current … policies are not working. We now hope that UK policy makers will consider a new national policy to fortify foods such as wheat flour with vitamin D to address this serious health issue.
“This will lead to significant benefits for the population, particularly the most vulnerable groups.”