Monday, July 23, 2012
“Rickets in the Rich”
Do I need Vitamin Drops?
It sounds a bit far-fetched in a westernised society but sadly, it’s true. In Southampton 2010, Professor Clarke (Orthopaedic Surgeon) assessed 200 randomly selected children and found that 20% required intervention. Prof. Clarke commented “In my 22 years at Southampton General Hospital, this is a completely new occurrence in the south that has evolved over the last 12 to 24 months and we are seeing cases across the board, from areas of deprivation up to the middle classes, so there is a real need to get national attention focused on the dangers this presents”. (See full article here).
Many parents are aware of the importance of calcium in their child’s diet in order to maintain healthy bones. However, without Vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed from the digestive tract and used. In other words, you can eat plenty of calcium but without vitamin D, it can’t be used.
The Department of Health recommend all children from six months to five years old are given supplements, in the form of vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D (DoH, Feb 2012). But....if your child is on more than 500ml formula milk then they don’t need a vitamin drop as formulas are fortified with these. If you are breastfeeding and didn’t take a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy then you may be advised by your health visitor to give your child a vitamin drop from the age of 1 month.
Sources of Vitamin D
The best source of vitamin D is the sunshine bouncing off your little one’s skin as they play outdoors. Continue to take the necessary precautions of using sunscreen and cover up appropriately before your child shows any signs of burning.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it can be stored in the liver and fatty tissues so it doesn’t need to be eaten as often as water-soluble vitamins - this is why you only hear the term 5-a day applied to fruit and veg rather than to steak or fish. Vitamin D is, however, quite hard to come by and only occurs naturally in a few foods:
- oily fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel)
- egg yolks
- certain brands of fat-spreads, breakfast cereals
Sadly, Vitamin D isn’t present in the foods many children seem to be drawn to, such as sausage, beans and chips!
In an age where pre-packaged meals are prevailing over home-cooked dinners and there is a dependence on technology (e.g. ipod apps and children’s 24 hour TV channels), in our experience, many children dictate to their parents which foods they will and won’t eat, therefore limiting their diet. It is therefore easy to see how Vitamin D deficiency can easily occur in any child.
Your health visitor or GP can give advice on vitamin drops and tell you where to get them. You’re entitled to free vitamin drops if you qualify for Healthy Start.