Vitamin-D can be synthesised via exposure to sunlight and it is also found in lots of animals produce like fish, meat, eggs and milk. The key benefits of vitamin-D are on the density of bones and teeth but it is also thought to helpful in fighting off depression, common sickness such a cold and flu as well as some diseases. Sadly the usual culprit of our modern lifestyles seems to be acting once again to hinder our health by disrupting our vitamin-D intake. Spending more time indoors, in big polluted cities that block out light as our environment as a whole becomes more wet and cloudy whilst we eat less foods rich in the macronutrient.
There have been numerous reports of vitamin-D deficiency, with Public Health England describing the situation as a “pandemic” (read more), and a new review of existing data published in the British Medical Journal estimates that if more food were fortified with vitamin-D it could prevent millions of cases of cold and flu. 25 studies involving more than 10,000 people have shown vitamin-D to be useful in preventing respiratory tract infections, with researchers concluding that fortifying widely eaten foods would improve public health.
Should governments take control of our nutrition?
The idea of government intervention into public nutrition is by no means new. The history of water fluoridation dates back to early 19th century America as an attempt to tackle public tooth decay, despite conspiracy theorists of the 1950-60s claiming it was a communist plot to undermine American public health. As well as water fluoridation, much of modern America’s milk is already fortified with vitamin-D, but should it be a government’s place to intervene in this way?
One could indeed argue that an overall saving could be made through not having to deal with the combined cost of medicine and lost work days to cold and flu or treatment for conditions such as osteoporosis. But what precedent does this set and what are the potential risks?
The UK is already pushing ahead with legislation for a sugar tax to start in April 2018, but why stop there? Why not a fat tax, or a tax on artificial ingredients and additives, perhaps even a tax on the processed meat that the world health organisation classified as a carcinogen in 2015 (read more). In fact why tax at all? Would it not be easier to ban such foods and drive funding directly to more healthy food sources? In the future could we see more drastic interventions as governments try to balance the cost and logistics of maintaining our ever expanding population by feeding citizens on nutritionally approved rations?
The risk that such steps pose is in how they could act to mitigate responsibility for people to understand and manage their own health. Already people are relying more on upon fast and convenience foods as issues such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity increase. A better solution perhaps would be greater investment in education and to provide clear information that cuts through all the noise enabling people to reclaim their own health.