Health officials have called for renewed vigour in tackling vitamin D deficiency, after it emerged that 25% of UK children have insufficient levels of the vital nutrient.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has recommended that the problem be combated with cheaper vitamin D supplements and fortification of a wider range of foods.
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to serious health problems including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis and rickets.
Many people find it difficult to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels during winter’s long hours of darkness, as sunlight is one of our main sources.
Professor Mitch Blair of the RCPCH has commented on the BBC’s Scrubbing Up column, “There has been a four-fold increase in admissions to hospital with rickets in the last 15 years and some groups are more ‘at risk’ than others – namely children, pregnant women and certain ethnic minority groups.
“Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms – but only 10% of a person’s recommended daily amount is found naturally in food.
“Put bluntly, eating more fish and getting out in the sun a bit more won’t make much of a difference to your vitamin D levels.”
Currently, the government’s Healthy Start programme offers free supplements to pregnant women and children in low-income families, but an apparent lack of knowledge about the issues of deficiency has meant a low uptake of the scheme.
The RCPH has also called for a public awareness campaign, boosting the British public’s knowledge of the symptoms, risks and prevention methods for vitamin D deficiency.