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Dietary intake of vitamin D in young university students from Leicester, England.
* 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 3
1  Department of Surgery, Medical and Social Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Alcalá, Ctra. Madrid-Barcelona, Km. 33.600, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.
2  Leicester School of Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK.
3  Scientific Computation & Technological Innovation Center (SCoTIC), Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain.
4  Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas, Universidad de Alcalá, Crta. Madrid-Barcelona Km, 33.6, 28871 Al-calá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Academic Editor: Egeria Scoditti


Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroid hormones responsible for increasing the intestinal absorption of important minerals including calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and phosphate (PO42-), and maintaining their homeostasis to support bone metabolism. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming common in developed countries; specifically, about 30-40% of the general population in the United Kingdom (UK) has been reported to have vitamin D deficiency during winter months, representing a public health risk. The aim was two-fold: a) to assess the dietary intake of vitamin D in a young population of university students at De Montfort University (DMU, UK), to identify potential deficiencies in this relevant group of the population, who are little studied in epidemiological studies; b) to investigate the effectiveness of a previously validated food frequency questionnaire (specifically the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk Food Frequency Questionnaire, EPIC-Norfolk FFQ), which was specifically tailored to include individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, as DMU has a diverse student population mainly comprised of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Comprehensive nutrient intake was collected from 111 (20.45 ± 1.16 yrs-old; 78 female) DMU students between 2015-16 from three major ethnic backgrounds (41 Asia, 41 Africa, 27 Europe). Questionnaires were processed with Nutritics dietary software. The dietary intake of vitamin D was slightly higher in male participants (4.287 vs. 3.853 µg/day; p-value=0.196), which could be attributed to the generally higher intake of food products rich in this vitamin, specifically fish (72.656 vs. 53.907 g/day; p-value=0.826), eggs (17.625 vs. 16.998 g/day; p-value=0.860), and meat (271.553 vs. 193.063 g/day; p-value=0.016) in male students. However, our results should be considered as preliminary as further analysis will need to analyse further potential differences in the intake of types of fish and meat, as oily fish and red meat are the food products with the highest content of vitamin D. Moreover, the intake of vitamins and supplements should also be considered in further studies as they can affect the dietary intakes of micronutrients. The dietary intakes of vitamin D recorded are lower than the recommended amount of 10 µg/day by the UK’s National Health Service and much lower than the 15 µg/day recommended dietary allowance described by the US’s National Institutes of Health. The ranges recorded for males (0.252-10.719 µg/day) and females (0.338-18.151 µg/day) highlight that some DMU individuals would be at risk of vitamin D deficiency that should be further explored by measuring levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D to identify individuals at risk, especially in males. Moreover, the intakes did not show statistical differences according to ethnic background [Asian (3.708) < African (4.109) < European (4.199); all in µg/day], which might reflect poor and similar dietary habit/choices when they transition from home into university regardless of their ethnic background. A higher intake of foods naturally rich and fortified in vitamin D may be recommended in university students.

Keywords: Vitamin D, dietary intake, university students, Leicester.