One in four toddlers are lacking vitamin D and could face walking delays, warns expert
Despite a recommendation that all children under five should take Vitamin D supplements, 74 per cent of parents know nothing about the guidelines
A quarter of all toddlers in the UK are lacking Vitamin D, according to research.
Despite a recommendation that all children under five should take Vitamin D supplements, 74 per cent of parents know nothing about the guidelines. And more than half of health professionals are also unaware of them.
Vitamin D supplements are also recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeders and the elderly.
Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant
paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, described the
vitamin deficiency issue as a 'major problem'.
He told BBC Breakfast: 'We see about one case of rickets a month in our hospital, but that's the very severe end of the disease.
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
that Vitamin D was found to prevent rickets about 100 years ago when
most children in London suffered from the disease – it was later
But then, in the
1950s, there was concern that children were getting too much Vitamin D
in food supplements and cod liver oil, so supplements were stopped. This
was unlike in other Western countries where they continued.
Dr Jacobs said: 'We thought they were unnecessary, possibly harmful, and that was a major mistake.'
said parents are largely unaware of the risk of the condition, while
health professionals are often taught that rickets is a disease of the
'It's really only over
the past 10 years or so that I've noticed children with Vitamin D
deficiency. And still I would say today, the majority of doctors, health
visitors, midwives, nurses, are not aware enough of the problem,' he
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.
He said it would not be harmful if people ended up with too much Vitamin D in their diet.
Vitamin D supplements are also recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeders and the elderly
guidelines suggest that children and pregnant women should have 400
units a day, but he described this as a 'conservative' level compared to
the US, where he said a study suggested pregnant women should have
'In my view, it is extremely safe,' he added.
Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said the Government would be reviewing the issue.
She said: 'We know a significant proportion of people in the UK probably have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.
'People at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant women and children under five, are already advised to take daily supplements.
'Our experts are clear – low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.
'Many health professionals such as midwives, GPs and nurses give advice on supplements, and it is crucial they continue to offer this advice as part of routine consultations and ensure disadvantaged families have access to free vitamin supplements through our Healthy Start scheme.
'It is important to raise awareness of this issue, and I will be contacting health professionals on the need to prescribe and recommend vitamin D supplements to at-risk groups.
'The Department of Health has also asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to review the important issue of current dietary recommendations on vitamin D.'
Vitamin D was found to prevent rickets about 100 years ago when most children in London suffered from the disease. This picture shows a boy being examined for the disease in the 1920s
Speaking about the recommendation that children take Vitamin D supplements, Professor Alan Silman, medical director at Arthritis Research UK said: 'We welcome the news that the chief medical officer is encouraging families to think about the importance of their bone health.
'It is worth remembering that it is not only children who are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Anyone who doesn’t get enough sunshine, possibly because they are too ill or frail to go outside, or people whose diet is lacking in Vitamin D, could be at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
'Those who don’t go out in the sun should eat plenty of oily fish and take supplements to get enough Vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D can result in bone loss, impairment of muscle function and an increased risk of falls and fractures'
'There is also significant research to suggest that bone strength starts at birth – or even in the womb.'
Last month a young couple walked free
from court after being cleared of killing their four-month-old son after
it was found he had been suffering from rickets.
Rohan Wray and Chana Al-Alas of Islington, north London, fell under suspicion when baby Jayden died suddenly two years ago.
But, following a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, charges of murder and causing or allowing his death were dropped.