Breaking News! Marks and Spencer are to fortify bread with vitamin D. Vitamin D is fundamental for calcium uptake, which is important if you want good bone health. News today on the BBC 1 TV 30/5/2015 and ITV news, are giving this article a big push, however when I googled the report to get a copy of the video, I found M&S fortification was also in the news (Daily Mail) back in 2011. More to the point a lot of branded breakfast cereals and milk is already fortified with vitamin D to make sure at risk groups get a helping hand… what’s the story here? ADVERTISING for M&S or a real campaign for increasing vitamin D for at risk groups?
Here’s the truth:
Vitamin D can be gained from 10 minutes in the sun 2-3 times a week from March to November and also is naturally occurring in eggs, dairy and oily fish. This will be difficult for a vegan to get through diet, but I’m sure M&S are not fortifying everyone’s bread for the welfare of only vegans (as nice as that thought is). This sounds on the surface, like M&S are making our food healthier. It says “that customers are concerned they are not getting their recommended daily amount”.. how did they find this out? Did they ask customers in store leading questions like, are you concerned you aren’t getting enough vitamin D? Or did customers email in to M&S in there thousands to let the company know their concerns? I’m intrigued. If it’s the latter, I find it hard to believe these people are the ones at risk of low vitamin D (as they are already aware of it) and that they would seek help from a supermarket rather than the NHS, a dietician or nutritionist. Further, do people with inflammatory bowel disease or cystic fibrosis that are very much at risk of vit D deficiency need bread? Or do they already have prescribed supplements? Who benefits from this fortification in M&S bread?
The feeling that I get from this article, is that it’s marketing firstly, the media don’t tell us things for our own health, they tell us what they want us to hear for their benefit. Secondly, I believe this is just another push to make us avoid taking responsibility for our diet. I feel like what is being said with this news article is the usual, WORK HARD, EAT BADLY, LET US FORTIFY YOUR FOOD, KEEP BUYING PROCESSED FOOD, YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO BE HEALTHY YOURSELF. DON’T EAT HEALTHILY, NATURALLY, LOCALLY AND SIMPLY. KEEP BUYING PROCESSED FOOD. KEEP BUYING. MAKE THE MANUFACTURERS RICH…
They say it’s just that some people can’t get the sunlight, and that not everyones diet is good enough. This is true for people who cannot have contact with the sun because of allergic reaction, or for people who eat a very restrictive diet (which can be out of choice rather than allergy) and don’t go in the sun. People outside of these groups that don’t get enough vitamin D need education in order to take responsibility for their vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus intake (for bone health). Why wouldn’t the MEDIA make an article on increasing oily fish, egg and dairy intake for increasing vitamin D, or start a campaign on the importance of 40 minutes outside activity in daylight each week? Why not talk about this issue of low vitamin D in 25% of the population, and all the ways to improve vitamin D intake? The answer is BECAUSE THAT DOESN’T MAKE MONEY, IT COSTS MONEY.
I’m a fan of M&S as far as supermarkets go, but I think it’s really pointless to highlight fortification instead of a campaign for the public benefit, it might as well have been a paid advert. Are the 10 million people in the UK at risk of insufficient vitamin D shopping in M&S? Are they really? Or are these people in the UK actually people who don’t splash extra cash in a expensive supermarket chain, and are these people not more likely to be people with little education on vitamin D and diet? Perhaps these are people who don’t have much monitory wealth and have to work long hours, 7 days a week; leaving in the dark, getting back in the dark? I’m not sure this at risk group is the M&S crowd. That’s a huge generalisation, but the point I’m making is that most of us have no excuse for not getting enough vitamin D. If you want to live a healthy life, make time to get outside, exercise and eat well, healthy food isn’t expensive, processed food is costly on the wallet and your health!
Let’s not just give up, sit inside, forget to exercise and buy processed foods fortified with a micronutrient when we can easily get enough naturally if we try.
Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are important for bone health. Make sure you get enough, make sure you know how much you need, and how to get it from diet and lifestyle. Knowledge is power, get the info, share the info! Most importantly, analyse media reports before you rush out and eat a M&S baguette in blind panic. Usually the most affected people are the ones without the means to make change, those people often don’t even know they are at risk. If you have people in your community that you can help to live a healthy life and eat well, offer to help them. Start a community campaign to raise awareness of vitamin D deficiency and importance of vit D and bone health. It’s all about looking after each other. Spread the word! Say NO to processed food and media spin.