Fortifying wheat flour with vitamin D would prevent 10 million new cases of vitamin D deficiency in England and Wales over the next 90 years, say the authors of a new study.
The researchers say overhauling existing public health policy to introduce the mandatory fortification of vitamin D in wheat flour would not only be cost-saving but would significantly reduce the burden on the NHS by preventing 25 per cent of the estimated 40 million new cases of vitamin D deficiency expected over the coming 90 years.
Furthermore, offering free vitamin D supplements to targeted groups of the population - including children, the elderly and Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) risk groups - would prevent an additional 8 per cent of new cases over the next 90 years.
The combination of wheat flour fortification and targeted supplementation could prevent 33 per cent (13.2 million) of expected cases, the researchers concluded.
They estimate that fortifying flour with vitamin D alone would save the public purse £65 million by reducing demand for treatment of the deficiency and its complications. Adding vitamin D to flour would cost just 12 pence per person per year.
The research, published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, proposes a new UK strategy to add 400 IU of vitamin D per 100 g of flour, while also offering free vitamin D supplements at a dose of 400 IU for children aged up to 18 years and 800 IU for all those aged over 65 years.