After we reported that vitamin D prevents depression in children, research now reveals that a quarter of all toddlers in the UK are lacking in the essential vitamin.
Vitamin D supplements are recommended for those people at risk of deficiency. This includes all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five and the elderly.
However, the BBC has reported that 74 per cent of parents and more than half of healthcare professionals are unaware of the importance of vitamin D.
Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, described the issue as a “major problem”, because of the risk of rickets.
Rickets is a rare disease that affects bone development in children. It causes the softening and weakening of bones, which can lead to deformities, such as bowed legs and curvature of the spine. Rickets in adults is known as osteomalacia.
Rickets was eradicated in the first half of the 20th century, when it was discovered that vitamin D prevents the condition.
But in the 1950’s supplements were stopped, as there was concern that children were getting too much of the vitamin in their food and in cod liver oil.
Consequently, parents are unaware of the risk of the condition and health professionals are often taught that rickets is a disease of the past.
Dr Jacobs said: “There are many other children who have less severe problems - muscle weakness, delay in walking, bone pains - and research indicates that in many parts of the country the majority of children have a low level of Vitamin D."
Although the vitamin is present in some foods like oily fish and egg yolk, 90 per cent is manufactured by the skin with the help of strong sunlight. Many people do not get enough sunlight to make enough vitamin D.
Asked about how vulnerable people can be given more Vitamin D, Dr Jacobs said current guidelines suggest taking drops or tablets, but experts are also looking into food supplementation.
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