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Rickets risk for indoor children

Medical experts at Newcastle University have warned that children are spending too much time indoors, leading to a marked rise in the number of cases of rickets.

Professor Simon Pearce and Dr Tim Cheetham said a lack of Vitamin D, otherwise known as the "sunshine vitamin", was leading to a increase in the number of children diagnosed with the disease - more commonly associated with the poverty-stricken streets of Victorian Britain.

According to recent figures, more than 20 new cases of rickets are diagnosed in Newcastle alone, prompting calls for a change in public health policy and a radical change in lifestyle for children in the UK.

Writing a clinical review in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, Professor Pearce and Dr Cheetham said the vitamin could also be added to milk and other common food products in a bid to reduce the risk of developing the disease, which softens the bones of young children, resulting in painful and deformed bow legs that do not grow properly.

Prof Pearce, a professor of endocrinology, said: "Kids tend to stay indoors more these days and play on their computers instead of enjoying the fresh air.

"This means their Vitamin D levels are worse than in previous years.

"A change in public health policy is required. Health professionals have been slow to deal with this problem, even though we have known about it for a while.

"Some measures have been taken but the number of patients still presenting with symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency shows we have a long way to go."

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British Medical Journal