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Scotland is located far north of the equator (>56 degrees latitude), meaning the angle of the sun at this location prevents adequate vitamin D production through the skin for several months of the year. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that researchers estimate at least 90% of Scottish residents are vitamin D deficient.

In addition, research suggests that Scottish infants experience a high risk for rickets due to severe vitamin D deficiency throughout the year, with the exception of July and August.

pregnant women in scotland-v02

This graph showcases the vitamin D status of 1,205 pregnant women at 19 weeks gestation and their infant’s cord blood level at birth. The red line indicates the threshold for increased risk of rickets.

The Scottish government has recommended all individuals over the age of five years supplement with 400 IU (10 mcg) vitamin D per day, especially during the winter months (October through March) when natural vitamin D production via sun exposure cannot occur. These recommendations were recently revised to include supplementation recommendations for pregnant women and children under five.

The United Kingdom National Health Services created a program called Healthy Start, which offers vouchers for free vitamin D supplements to qualifying pregnant women, women with a baby under one year old and children under the age of five years located in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

In April of 2017, the Scottish government partnered with the Healthy Start program to offer free vitamin D supplements to all Scottish pregnant women, regardless of whether they qualify for vouchers. This joint effort was created to decrease the risk of rickets and other health complications caused by vitamin D deficiency.

Of course, these recommended doses are inadequate, according to the Vitamin D Council’s standards. Research has found that children require 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight and adults require 5,000 IU vitamin D per day to reach optimal vitamin D levels (40-60 ng/ml; 100-150 nmol/l).

Nevertheless, the fact that Scotland’s local government recognizes the importance of vitamin D for disease prevention and is taking action to improve the vitamin D status of women and children gives hope for the future of public health.

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