The majority of parents are ignoring guidance from healthcare professionals and not giving their children essential vitamins, claims a survey for the health food industry.
Despite NHS guidance suggesting that children aged six months to five years should receive daily vitamin D supplements, 59% of parents are not taking up the advice, a poll found.
The survey, commissioned by the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA), found that 64% felt their children were getting enough vitamin D from their diets alone.
The poll, which saw 10,000 UK adults questioned, including 5,800 parents, found that 76% of people didn’t know that youngsters are advised to take vitamin D supplements.
And more than a third said there was not enough information available about food supplements.
In February 2012, England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies issued a letter with advice on supplements for at risk groups, including infants and young children under five years of age.
At present only low-income families qualify for free vitamins on the NHS but there are rising concerns about the number of children who develop rickets − the most common cause of the bone condition is a lack of vitamin D.
“The public needs access to straightforward, responsible information about how essential vitamins and minerals work”
Health officials have estimated that 40% of children are not getting enough vitamin D.
The best source of vitamin D, which is essential for keeping teeth and bones healthy, is sun on the skin. It only occurs naturally in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs, and is added to some items such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
Dr Adrian Martineau, clinical reader in respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said: “One key reason why so many are deficient is because since the 1990s, in an attempt to reduce the risk of skin cancer, most of the developed world has become increasingly adverse to sun exposure.
“In addition, vitamin D is also a fat-soluble hormone and as such, gets stored in the body’s fat reserves − where it is unable to carry out its normal role. With rising levels of obesity, more of us have greater amounts of body fat and this is reducing the effective levels of vitamin D,” he said.
“This further highlights the importance of supplementation in this nutrient as a public health issue,” he added.
HFMA’s executive director Graham Keen added: “The public needs access to straightforward, responsible information about how essential vitamins and minerals work.
“Everyone should know that the best solution for most people to consume key nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, is to eat as healthy a diet as possible. However, it should be recognised that a daily food supplement provides important insurance for millions looking to safeguard their nutritional intake.”