Vitamin deficiencies are ‘widespread’ in the developed world, according to a new traffic light analysis of vitamin intakes by DSM.
Writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers from DSM reveal that despite the wide range of foods available, many developed countries – including Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA – suffer from ‘widespread’ vitamin inadequacies in the population.
Speaking with NutraIngredients, Dr. Manfred Eggersdorfer, senior vice-president for nutrition and science advocacy at DSM revealed that the research is built on publically available data, which was then analysed and visualised using a traffic light scoring system.
“I think that for the first time there is now comparative data which can differentiate between vitamin status in different countries in a visual way,” said Eggersdorfer - who said he believes the traffic light system is an ‘excellent tool’ for visualising and communicating the sometimes stark differences between what is recommended for intake and what is actually achieved.
The DSM expert said the results show the need for a “call to action” on the topic of vitamin intakes, arguing that government bodies and policy makers need to help the public realise the right balance when it comes to dietary intake, fortification, and supplementation.
“We want scientists to engage with regulatory bodies and policy makers so that we can try to get the best recommendations for intakes.”
In 1912, Polish biochemist Casimir Funk coined the term ‘vitamine’ to define vital organic compounds that helped to prevent conditions such as beriberi and scurvy – and with it modern micronutrient science was born. Since then, researchers have identified and characterized a wide range of vitamins – 13 in total – with a range of functions at both a molecular and a cellular level, all playing an important role in human health.
"Vitamins play a vital role in the diet, delivering long term benefits to health, and yet this research highlights that 100 years after their discovery there are still major gaps that urgently need closing - to improve people's long term health and to drive down healthcare costs,” said Eggersdorfer.
The analysis reveals that three quarters of the population in Germany, the UK, and the USA, do not meet the dietary intake recommendations of the respective countries for a number of essential micronutrients.
The study used a traffic light system to indicate vitamin status. They assigned a red light to cases where more than 75% of the population has an intake status lower than the nationally recommended level, a yellow light.
Red lights were presented for vitamin D status in Germany, the UK and the USA – whilst vitamin E was also shown to have a red light in the UK and the USA. Vitamin B9 (folate) received a red light ‘warning’ in Germany, along with vitamin A in the USA
Of the countries monitored, the Netherlands was found to have the fewest red lights.
“What we see in these countries is not a deficiency, however there is an inadequate intake when compared to the recommended daily levels,” said Eggersdorfer – noting that such information needed to be effectively communicated to both consumers and policy makers.
“We know inadequate intake of vitamins does have an effect on long-term health, especially in terms of nutrition related diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
“Sufficient intake will support lowering the risk of these non-communicable diseases and aid healthy aging.”