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   Oct 22

Number of children lacking Vitamin D soars by more than 200% in five years: Parents told to give youngsters supplements

Worrying lack of knowledge by GPs and health workers on guidelines: study

Campaigners say danger of returning to ‘Victorian’ levels of the problem

Vitamin found in sun and foods such as oily fish, eggs as well as mushrooms

Survey finds few know none in light between months of November to March

The number of children with vitamin D deficiency has soared by more than 200 per cent in five years because parents are unaware how important it is for health, a study has revealed.

It also exposed a ‘worrying’ lack of knowledge by GPs and health workers about the Government’s guidelines on the vitamin.

Now the public health awareness campaign which commissioned the study is warning parents must give their children supplements and fortified foods to avoid a return to ‘Victorian’ levels of vitamin D deficiency, when the bone-softening disease rickets was common.

Foods such as oily fish (including salmon), eggs and mushrooms naturally contain vitamin D
Vitamin D Mission said supplements were particularly important during winter months when sunlight is not strong enough to enable skin to produce the vitamin.

Foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms naturally contain vitamin D, but many cereals and some dairy products are fortified with the vitamin. Skin exposure to sunlight from March to October also produces vitamin D.

The survey of more than 1,100 parents and 250 health professionals found only 4 per cent of parents with children under five knew that sunlight in the UK between November and March could not provide vitamin D.

Worryingly, only 7 per cent of GPs and health visitors surveyed could name the months when sunlight was too weak to produce it.

And a third of health professionals and four in five parents were unaware of government guidelines that children aged from six months to five years old should take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Half of parents admitted knowing ‘not much’ or ‘nothing’ about the role of the vitamin in their child’s health, while more than a third said they had never received any information about its importance in relation to their child.

How to improve Vitamin D intake in young children

The Vitamin D Mission also gathered hospital data on admissions for vitamin D deficiency and rickets, which is caused by a lack of the vitamin, and found cases in under-16s have jumped from 1,398 in 2009/10 to 4,638 in 2013/14.

The east Midlands saw the biggest jump in cases – with a 628 per cent increase since 2009/10 – while the south west saw the smallest increase at 3 per cent. London and the south east both had increases of more than 300 per cent.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and clinical consultant to the Vitamin D Mission, said: ‘These findings are very worrying as they seem to suggest that parents in the UK are still not properly informed of the major health issues associated with low levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D-related conditions, such as rickets, are increasing year on year

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician

‘Vitamin D-related conditions, such as rickets, are increasing year on year so there is a need for us to work harder in ensuring parents are aware of the Department of Health guidelines and acting on it.

‘Due to the weak sunlight during the winter months, we are urging parents to make every day a vitamin D day, and include naturally occurring or fortified vitamin D-rich foods into their children’s diets, or to provide them with a daily supplement.’

GP Dr Ellie Cannon said the average British toddler only received around 27 per cent of the recommended vitamin D intake. She added: ‘Much more work needs to be done around increasing awareness among parents and healthcare professionals.

‘In addition, parents can make a few simple adjustments to their children’s diet such as including more naturally-rich and enhanced vitamin D foods.’

An online test for parents to see if their children under five are getting enough is available at: www.vitamindmission.co.uk.

Source: Daily Mail

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