Experts review vitamin D advice


Concerns over vitamin D deficiency - A quarter of toddlers affected

Related Stories

The chief medical officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, is to contact medical staff about concerns young children and some adults are not getting enough vitamin D.

Government guidelines recommend some groups, including the under-fives, should take a daily supplement.

However, recent research found that many parents and health professionals were unaware of the advice.

There has been an increase in childhood rickets over the past 15 years.

According to Dr Benjamin Jacobs, from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, links to heart disease and some cancers are also being investigated.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote Dame Sally Davies Chief medical officer for England

The consultant paediatrician told BBC Breakfast that the hospital saw about one severe case a month of rickets - softening of bones through lack of vitamin D in childhood.

He said: "There 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 vitamin D."

The Feeding for Life Foundation report, published in October last year, suggested one in four toddlers in the UK is vitamin D deficient.

However, this may be an underestimate as only vitamin D from food was included, and not any vitamin D obtained through sun exposure.

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for all people at risk of a deficiency, including all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five years old, people aged over 65, and people at risk of not getting enough exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D is mainly obtained from sunlight. However, too much sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer.

According to one recent study, nearly three-quarters of parents and more than half of health professionals are unaware of the recommendations.

The Department of Health has asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to review the issue of current dietary recommendations on vitamin D.

Dame Sally Davies: "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.

Free 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."

It has long been known that vitamin D prevents rickets and children were once given food supplements like cod liver oil.

However, this practice was stopped in the 1950s because it was thought unnecessary.

In the last 10 years, doctors have been seeing more cases of vitamin D deficiency, leading to a debate over the use of food supplements and concern that many medical staff are unaware of the problem.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I presume the board of Holland & Barrett are rating the comments? Pointing out that you don't need supplements just 15 mins sunlight a day seems a hell of a lot less popular than 'take 500x as much as you need, ideally by injection'.

    Taking 6 times more Vit C than you need raises your risk of bladder cancer, 6x more Vit A than RDA can be fatal. 500x more than RDA Vit D seems a really bad idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    If everyone spent as much time out in the sunshine walking their dogs or "playing out" as we used to call it, and enjoyed healthy diets and other so called naughties in moderation, we would all be happy and considerably less worried about, Vit D, cancer, SAD, etc. etc.........Why not go for a walk when you get home instead of watching the telly ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    There's so much conflicting & contradictory advice regarding supplements I think I'm going to ignore it all, take what I want and if I feel better as a result then I'll continue to take 'em. Ruddy experts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase risk of all inflammatory diseases, including heart disease, in addition to those mentioned in the article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    cant have a subject go by without the usual "wasnt like this in my day your all pamperd" brigade, have a look out the window, chuckin it down, take a walk down the street to the park, litterd with rubbish and dog crap everywhere, so when and how are my apparently over pamperd little couch potatoes meant to get this sunshine?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Cont from 38:

    Oh and before you all say what about in winter.......get out in the fresh air with your kids, cold or not! Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather........just a bad choice of clothes!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Does anyone know about the 50000 iu prescriptions being dished out by GP's? This is 500 times the daily suggested daily intake. Any comments?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Just go and sit in the sun for a short time each day ... Sorted. Or will the NHS be buying Vegan,Halal and Kosher vitamin D tablets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Its so simple it doesnt need another 'think tank' to state the blindingly obvious. Get kids outside and stop them sitting in front of a TV or PC every hour out of School. Eat healthily and you get the vitamins you need, eat rubbish and the answer is obvious. The problem is people are either over protective or dont care any more. Kids need exercise and good food like all of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Eat a healthy balanced diet and play out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The Vitamin D Council in the States has many article/research links that support the need for higher amounts of supplemental D in latitudes above 38 degrees where there is not enough sun available for optimal levels.

    I lived in Scotland for 7 years and was severely deficient. While supplementing 8,000 IUs for 2 years, I haven't had a single cold. My eczema and asthma disappeared as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "Michael Lloyd
    And in a vastly over-populated and now seemingly bankrupt world, this is good because...?"

    well, if you wish to return to the brutish world that we left about 100 years ago, feel free. I would suggest Zimbabwe, Somalia and much of sub-Saharan Africa. We are fortunate to live at a time where most can enjoy a good lifestyle for most of our lives, unlike much of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    What happened to mum's letting their babies snooze in the sun, and soaking up some lovely sunshine and vitamin D? And then when the kid's were older, letting them run around in the garden in underpants, having water fights, and soaking up some of that much needed and free vitamin D?.......Maybe some of our youngster's just get a little too mollycoddled today............???

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I was surprised to hear when my sister moved to France that she was offered an annual Vit D injection before every winter.

    Much more effective than the calcium tablets they feed to 'at risk' pensioners here.

    Of course, you need a flexible budget to cover the big hike in costs in one month rather than a steady trickle of money paid to more than one part of the NHS probably costs more overall?).

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    make your minds up. its not that long ago we werre told youre taking too many supplements. you get enough in your daily meals. people dont know if they are coming or going with these so called experts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    23 DoctorLector

    Well, you did start it by mentioning poverty. That will be the case if you confuse poverty with poor education. When I was at school we all knew about the importance of vitamins, and we went to a state school. Mind you fish was a bit more plentiful as we hadn't over-fished the oceans feeding a burgeoning population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Baby follow on milk contains added vitamin D but health visitors have no idea what children need and tell young mothers to get them off the bottle to early. The government should fund follow on milk for the 1 to 2 year olds.
    Instead of wasting money bailing out Banks and Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Rickets is on the increase due to people spending less time exposed to the sun. Particularly in kids due to overprotective parents stopping them playing outside due to fears of paedofiles which have been blown out of all proportion (mainly thanks to the likes of the Daily Mail and ironically the Sun).

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    This is a no brainer. Vitamin deficiency is not that common. With a bit of common sense no one should be deficienant in this vitamin. The BBC, again, is pandering to the masses where a few uneducated people fail to see the reason behind rickets. Just let children play is sunlight and that will end the problem....oh you cannot do this because of cancer scares...what a sad world we live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    This is old advice being recycled.

    Just eat healthily, get outside when you can & rip off those layers when the sun shines. You don't have to sit & bake in the sun to reap the benefits.

    People who cover up from head to foot are an obvious risk which is denoted by the fact they they are usually bandy

    Children should get off the xbox & play outsdie preferrably with parental supervision


Page 7 of 9


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.