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Paediatricians issue vitamin D deficiency warning

Low cost supplements can stem the growing problem of vitamin D deficiency among children, it is claimed.

According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), a quarter of children, “at least” half of the UK's white population and up to 90% of the “multi-ethnic population” are deficient in vitamin D.

The deficiency is said to be resulting in higher incidences of diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets - a bone disease uncommon in the UK since the 19th century.

Recent figures suggest a 4-fold increase in incidents of rickets over the last 15 years.

Professor Mitch Blair, Officer for Health Promotion at the RCPCH, said: “We know vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem - and localised research reveals startling high levels of vitamin deficiency amongst certain groups including children.

“People can only get a fraction (10%) of their 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 and adults that could be prevented through relatively simple steps such as taking supplements.”

As well as vitamin D supplements, fortification of foods, greater knowledge amongst healthcare professionals and better public awareness are among the steps needed to tackle the growing incidence of vitamin D deficiency in the UK population, claimed the RCPCH.

Today, (Friday 14 December 2012) the college has today launched a campaign calling for: vitamin D supplements to be readily available at low-cost and high quality; and investigation into the pros and cons of further fortification of food with vitamin D; professional guidance for healthcare professionals and a public awareness campaign.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said school nurses and health visitors are “excellently placed” to spread the awareness of vitamin D deficiency by working with families and teachers.

“[The RCPCH's] warning adds to the evidence that school nurses and health visitors make real life long improvements to a child's health by supporting families from an early age with education and support,” he said.