M&S Add Vitamin D to Bread to Tackle Rise in Rickets
In response to a rise in rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency, Marks and Spencer is becoming the first UK retailer to add vitamin D to its entire packaged bread range. The range will contain yeast that has been exposed to UV light, naturally raising the vitamin D content.
Experts have called vitamin D deficiency in the UK a ‘hidden epidemic’, and stressed the importance of getting enough vitamin D in order to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, protect against osteoporosis and even to help prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
“Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that sadly many people are lacking,” says Claire Severgnini, chief executive of the National Osteoporosis Society. “This can lead to osteoporosis and other health complications that can be avoided by simple lifestyle changes. Safe sun exposure is an excellent way of obtaining natural vitamin D, however levels can be topped up through diet.”
M&S says that the new bread range will provide a minimum of 15% of the daily vitamin D requirement in every two slices. A survey by the retailer showed that 2,476 of its customers were concerned about vitamin D deficiency, and 78% said they would welcome the addition of vitamin D to the bread range.
However, some experts have expressed the view that altering food like this is not the way to tackle the deficiency problem.
“I’m not sure that adding vitamin D to bread is the best solution,” says Chris Coulton, professor emeritus of orthopaedic and accident surgery at Nottingham University. “I think the answer is, rather than feeding the whole population excess vitamin D which is not necessary, we should educate people. One of the ways of dealing with [a rise in rickets] is to encourage certain cultures to allow young people to be exposed to more sunlight, to encourage them out to play, and not to wear all-encompassing clothes.
“There are certain dangers of putting vitamin D into bread or toothpaste, whatever you like. There is a condition called hypervitaminosis D, where people can ingest too much vitamin D and that can upset calcium in the body and result in excess calcium deposits in the tissues.”
While there may be disagreements about how the public should be encouraged to raise their vitamin D intake, the consensus remains that everyone should make sure they are maintaining healthy levels of the vitamin for the sake of their health.