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 110.

    This just shows how unnatural and inhuman and dependant we have all become. We arn't getting enough sunlight?!? thats crazy right. Our kids no longer climb trees or run through fields or swim in rivers- Its all to "dangerous". we are lost without nature, yet we no longer respect or understand it. This will be our greatest downfall and will help create the end to humans eventually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

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

    A while ago there was an article about wasted food. They measured things like discarded chicken bones as wasted food.

    WHEN are we going to have "experts" reaching proper conclusions by considering ALL relevant facts and not trying to skew things

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    102 and 88, am I correct that Thalidomide's teratogenic action was due to the mixing of both left and right isomers in formulation. In effect the drugs failure was due to either a poor understanding of isomer activity, poor formulation control during manufacture or simply the cost of isomer separation was too high so was not carried out ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Both myself and my son have very pale skin, we burn within 10mins on a hot summers day, and wear high factor sunscreen to avoid both sunburn and skin damage. I have never been told to take vitamin D supplements, but have chosen to do so (and offer them to my son too) because I know we don't spend much time in the sun. Surely better than becoming a lobster like my partner each year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I grew up in the American South, right on the Atlantic ocean. I had many years of sun exposure, virtually year-round. (barring those darn thunderstorms and hurricanes) At 22 I found out I had MS and now have to take Vitamin D supplements and have been told I'm at risk for skin cancer because of too much sun exposure as a child. I'M SO CONFUSED!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I am a mother of two and am aware of the healthy start free vitamins. The only problem is that no one (midwives, health visitors, GP's or even pharmacists) know where to get them from. Ringing the healthy start hotline doesn't work either, for they don't seem to know where to get the vitamins from in our area. The knowledge is there, but the supply is lacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    They shouldn't have stopped removing it from margarine - sorry spreads. Fish is so expensive to buy these days that it is prohibitive to provide it in this form for kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @ 87. Queen_Becci_B

    "It's all down to lack of education & understanding It's obvious ....... blah blah boring blah"

    Your first line said it all though didn't it! READ THE ARTICLE - VIT D IS NOT FOUND IN FOOD! It is a process! As for forcing children outside - never heard of schools - and personally I find it hard getting them to come back indoor again after being in the park!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    88 - Thalidomide was actually marketed as a sedative when it was launched in 1957. It wasn't licensed for morning sickness, but was commonly prescribed off-license for it after it was discovered to be an effective treatment. The thalidomide tragedy played a big part in the tighter drug regulations we take for granted now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    98. whowrotethis
    8 Minutes ago

    I quite agree. Having been brought up in the 1940s and 50s I can vouch for that. During my youth a participated in at least three activities were broken bone were taken an accepted risk but never managed it once, just a few dislocated joints.

    So what special measure did my parents take other the application of a bit of common sense.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    #94. No. Its called 'Vitamin D' . You can 'so call it' whatever you want but you'll be in a very small minority. Firstly its not a steroid, its a secosteroid because it only has 3 cycloalkane rings not 4. More importantly steroids are essential for life- without hydrocortisone (made in the adrenal glands) you'll be dead in a couple of days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Anyone saying it wasn't like this in their day might like to know that in the 1940's the UK fortified margarine and milk powder with vitamin D. Supplements were handed out and milk and rusks were fortified with Vit A and D. The truth is we understood a considerable amount about nutrition before the war but afterward pharmaceuticals dominated and this knowledge was regarded as archaic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    A high proportion of people suffering from autoimmune diseases have been shown to have severe vitamin D deficiency (in Multiple Sclerosis routine testing is recommended).
    Many autoimmune conditions are treated with steroids which make the risk of osteoporosis much greater.
    It is claimed by researchers that much higher doses are needed in these cases but the NHS doesn’t listen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    This seems to be partially caused by years of over reaction to sun bathing. People have been scared-off sun beds and beaches and the result has come home to roost in vitamin D deficiency. It's an easy thing to cure so let's have some quick and decisive action from the NHS rather than debates for more years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    We're seeing a lot of these conditions (rickets, typhoid, TB, etc) that we thought were eradicated from this country making a comeback. Yet, when we dig a little deeper, we often find it's actually immigrants arriving with a pre-existing condition, not something people here have suddenly got. So, if you've lived here all your life, I doubt there's much need to panic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Firstly so called vitamin D is not really a vitamin and is chemically a steroid. My advice is for a ballanced diet and only supplement under medical supervision. It is always worth finding out who has funded this research. In this case it is Cow and Gate I need say no more.

    On a personal note I once took vitamin D tablets and I had to rushed to hospital with hypercalcima.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Next week, some body/group will say that they have concerns about people getting too much sunlight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Why are we so surprised by this?
    The youngsters today wear hoodies all the time,only go out when its dark,spend all their daylight time in a darkened room playing computer games,eat nothing but junk food and speak like they are a product of Jamaica!!!!
    Get some fresh air,decent food and exercise and you will be a lot better off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Are these the same experts that told us that Thalidomide was safe?"

    Like most things in a constrained set of conditions, patients and amounts it is both safe and efficacious. However, you are using the same (flawed) logic as a climate change denier asking (rhetorically) "are these the same experts who predicted an ice age?". The answer is the same: no they aren't and not relevant.


Page 4 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.