Doctors call for cheap vitamin D to help boost health
According to The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), studies show that up to 25% of UK children have a vitamin D deficiency.
A lack of vitamin D causes a higher risk of rickets cases, in which the bones become weakened and softened, resulting in a curvature of the bones and sometimes can lead to fractures. The initial symptoms of the deficiency also include muscle and bone pain and can be identified by the swelling on the wrists and ribs.
Not only does a lack of the vitamin effect bones, but a deficiency has been linked to diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and tuberculosis.
The number of rickets cases has risen from 183 in 1996 to 762 in 2011 and experts believe there are far more cases going undiagnosed. The RCPCH warned that only one in ten people get enough vitamin D from food and sunlight, so supplementation is necessary.
Vitamin D naturally occurs in oily fish, eggs and liver and has always been associated with sunlight, but this is not enough to tackle the problem.
While current government guidelines recommend that pregnant women and breast-fed babies should receive supplements of the vitamin, the rest of the population receives no such advice. However, it is necessary that the public are aware of the implications of the deficiency and know how they can boost their intake. It is the duty of doctors and medical staff to pass on this advice to make people aware of this pervasive issue.
Professor Mitch Blair, Officer for Health Promotion, believes, “Vitamin D supplementation should be widely available at low-cost.” To improve the average intake of vitamin D, experts suggest supplements and adding the vitamin to cereal.
The USA already uses vitamin D supplements in milk, which has reduced the deficiency, and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is currently looking into ways to include the vitamin into diets.
There are discussions in place on how to inform the public and promote the benefits of vitamin D, yet Professor Blair feels that only when “Knowing the true extent of the problem can we develop the most appropriate preventions – and ensure that vitamin D is brought out of the shadows and into the sun.”