Latest figures show that a quarter of toddlers have a vitamin D deficiency, described as a “major problem” by a leading paediatrician.
Although vitamin D supplements are recommended for the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under five, just 26% of parents know anything about them.
Furthermore, over half of healthcare professional are unaware of their benefits, according to Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, who described it as a huge problem.
Dr Jacobs said that each month a case of rickets is seen in the hospital, but they only get to see the extreme cases. While speaking to BBC Breakfast, 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.”
Dr Jacobs explained that the discovery showing vitamin D prevents rickets was made around a century ago when the disease was rife in London, and this led to rickets being stamped out.
However, during the 1950’s concern grew over children taking too much of the vitamin in supplement form so these were stopped, while the practice was continued in other Western countries.
Dr Jacobs said: “We thought they were unnecessary, possibly harmful, and that was a major mistake.”