The use of food supplements in the UK

Time 7 Feb 2017 17:00-18:30
Venue Committee Room 21, House of Commons

At its first meeting of the year, the Forum discussed the use of food supplements in the UK with Professor Louis Levy, Head of Nutrition Science at Public Health England, and Professor Hilary Powers, Chair of the SACN Vitamin D Working Group. Members were also shown a short video presentation of new research on omega-3 supplementation and muscle function led by Dr Stuart Gray of Glasgow University.

Following the meeting the BBC Radio 4 Today programme reported the findings of a systematic review of evidence on vitamin D which suggests that taking vitamin D supplements could reduce the risk of colds and flu. The research, led by Professor Adrian Martineau of Queen Mary University London (QMUL) has been published in the BMJ (15 February 2017). On the Today programme he said that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 10% reduction of risk of having a single episode of cold or ‘flu for the population as a whole and a 50% reduction in risk for people who have low levels of vitamin D, defined as 25(OH)D ≥ 25 nmol/L. In a QMUL statement, Professor Martineau said that their “analysis of pooled raw data from each of the 10,933 trial participants allowed us to address the thorny question of why vitamin D ‘worked’ in some trials, but not in others. “The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely spaced doses.” He also said that the systematic review “strengthens the case for introducing food fortification to improve vitamin D levels in countries such as the UK where profound vitamin D deficiency is common.” Public Health England responded to this news by saying that the evidence on vitamin D and the risk of respiratory infections remains inconsistent and this evidence does not justify changing its advice on the use of vitamin D supplements.

Meeting documents

Slides - Professor Louis Levy, Public Health England (351k)

Slides - Professor Hilary Powers, University of Sheffield and SACN (130k)

Archived meeting documents