According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect a quarter of children, resulting in higher incidences of diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets.
While the Government’s Healthy Start programme provides vitamins free to low-income families and at risk groups, Professor Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the RCPCH, has claimed that the vitamins are in short supply and uptake is low.
In light of this, the RCPCH has today (Friday) launched a campaign calling for high quality vitamin D supplements to be readily available at a low cost, something which is already happening in some countries says Prof Blair.
It follows a recommendation by the chief medical officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, in January that all women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children aged six months to five-years-old take vitamin D supplements.
The RCPCH’s campaign also recommends an investigation into the pros and cons of further fortification of food with vitamin D, and increasing public awareness by providing clear information for parents and families on the warning signs of vitamin D deficiency and how to prevent it.
Prof Mitch Blair (pictured) said, ‘We know vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem and research reveals startling high levels of vitamin deficiency among certain groups including children.
‘It is only possible to get a fraction (10 per cent) of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D through food and very little from sunlight. So getting out in the sun more or eating more oily fish isn’t going to solve the problem.
‘Lack of vitamin D is related to a plethora of serious illnesses in children that could be prevented through relatively simple steps such as taking supplements.’
He added, ‘Equally as important is making sure that all healthcare professionals can spot the signs of vitamin D deficiency in children; aches and pains, poor growth, muscle weakness and seizures – and make sure they get appropriately treated.
The first stage of the RCPCH campaign will see a series of leaflets for paediatricians and other healthcare professionals highlighting the signs of vitamin D deficiency, which will be published in the spring.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is currently looking into proposals for further vitamin D fortification of food and drink, which already happens in countries including the United States, Canada and Finland.