So rickets are making a comeback, and the government is taking an interest as improving health in early years can lead to sustained well being in adulthood.
This finding has recently made it into the media, but the focus has mainly been placed on a suggestion that it may be cost effective to give all children under the age of 5 free vitamin drops or tablets.
Under the current Healthy Start Vitamin Programme, free vitamins are usually only given to children and women whose families are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Child Tax Credit.
One aspect of the report highlights the increasing number of children suffering from vitamin D deficiency. This gives an indication that only offering vitamins to disadvantaged children has not been enough to make a difference.
This suggestion has been made in the light of of increasing evidence that the number of children with vitamin D deficiency is rising. As many as 40% of young children may have levels below the accepted optimal threshold.
Vitamin D deficiency causes the condition rickets, where developing bones soften, which can lead to bowed legs and curvature of the spine. It is easily prevented by exposure to sunlight several times a week without wearing sun cream, as well as a balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamin D and calcium.
However, in many families – often those on low incomes – the quality of children’s diets is restricted, meaning they do not receive enough vitamins and nutrients.
The report reckons the long term benefits of vitamin supplementation could outweigh the short term expense.
What wound me up is that the report mainly only addressed diet, not the fact that children aren’t getting sunlight because they spend most of their time indoors playing on computers, watching TV etc… Which would surely offer a free solution – get kids out of the house more!