Health professionals have been urged to make pregnant women, the over-65s and parents of young children aware of the risks of vitamin D deficiency.
Following renewed concerns about the deficiency, the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers have written to health professionals reminding them of the issue.
In severe cases, deficiency can lead to bone problems such as rickets in children and weakness, aches and pains due to osteomalacia (the adult form of rickets) in adults.
Figures show up to a quarter of the population has low levels of vitamin D in their blood and most pregnant women neglect to take vitamin D supplements.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, parents of children under the age of five and the over-65s are deemed most at-risk of vitamin D deficiency, and so are recommended by the Department of Health to take daily vitamin D supplements. People who are housebound or aren’t exposed to much sun also fall into this category, as do people with darker skin.
The Chief Medical Officers have urged nurses, GPs and hospital staff, who are in regular contact with these at-risk groups, to explain the advice on taking vitamin D supplements. They have also been called upon to make people aware of the symptoms of the deficiency.
They must also make people on lower incomes aware that they may get free vitamin supplements through the Healthy Start scheme.
Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Our experts are clear - low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.”