There are several recommendations from UK official governmental and non governmental bodies about giving a vitamin D supplement for children. Most importantly the Department of Health recommends the use of Vitamin D supplements for all children.
The problem is you can’t buy vitamin D supplements for babies and young children from pharmacies.
|Organisation||Amount of vitamin D||Recommendation|
|Department of Health (NHS and NICE),British Dietetic Association, British Nutrition Foundation||7 to 8.5 µg||Breastfed babies from 6 months (or earlier), formula-fed babies receiving less than 500 ml a day and all children from the age of 1 year.|
|The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital||5 to 10 µg||Babies from birth to 6 months (5 µg) and toddlers from 6 months (10 µg).|
|Vitamin D Association||10 µg||For every child from birth.|
The recommendations are not fully aligned. However, according to studies and other countries recommendations supplementation should be started from birth. There is not enough vitamin D in the breast milk – in fact less than 10 % of the daily requirement. Some estimates say about 80% of women breastfeed in the UK. That’s why breastfed babies need a vitamin D supplement from birth. In the UK, GP’s do not want to prescribe vitamin D because they believe it should be bought as an OTC product. I totally agree. GP commissioners estimate the cost of supplying vitamin D supplements on prescriptions could escalate to as much as £20m over the next few years.
So why isn’t there a vitamin D product on the market for babies?
Other countries like Ireland, Poland, Canada and the Scandinavian countries have similar recommendations about Vitamin D. They also have very good products on the market and children are given the vitamins they need. Unfortunately the situation in the UK is very disappointing.
D is for development!
Growing children need vitamin D for strong bones and teeth and general development. Also, there are many studies linking vitamin D deficiency with other conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, infectious diseases and multiple sclerosis.
The rate of Vitamin D deficiency in the UK is over 50%!
Half of the UK’s white population, and up to 90% of the black and Asian people are thought to be affected by vitamin D deficiency. The number of cases of rickets is now four times higher than 15 years ago. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure to the skin. However, at UK latitudes, there is limited sunlight of the appropriate wavelength, particularly from October to May. Also, babies and young children should be protected from direct sunlight. WHO recommends using sunscreen which blocks any natural vitamin D production in the skin. However, sun protection is important, so you can’t leave your child unprotected. Vitamin D intake merely via food is not sufficient. The main source in diet is oily fish which is not always a regular part of children’s diets. In fact, only 10% of a person’s recommended daily amount is found naturally in food. As Professor Mitch Blair said: – Put bluntly, eating more fish and getting out in the sun a bit more won’t make much of a difference to your vitamin D levels.”
Multivitamins are not the thing.
Currently, there are no suitable vitamin-D-only products for children widely available on the UK high street. There are some multivitamin products but they often contain Vitamin D2. Official recommendation is to use vitamin D in its D3 form, not D2. The body more readily uses D3 and it’s nearly twice as potent as D2. Also, other vitamins are unnecessary as they are easily obtained in the diet. Because multivitamins are water soluble they often contain preservatives, flavourings and sugar. Vitamin D3 products can be made with only two ingredients: Vitamin D3 and medium chain triglycerides (i.e. vegetable oil).
Every child needs vitamin D supplementation throughout the whole year.
Wait, it gets kind of worse. Healthy Start programme provides vitamins free for people on income support. Great! What about the rest of us? Well, even Healthy Start programme isn’t working. The vitamins are in short supply and uptake is low because people don’t know about them. According to Professor Blair: - We need to make sure healthcare professionals – including GPs, paediatricians, doctors and nurses – know the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, but more importantly give appropriate advice to patients who are ‘at risk’ to prevent problems developing. This is good but who’s at risk? Everyone. You shouldn’t look for the signs of deficiency but prevent it altogether because it is so easy. If only there was a product on the market. Prevention is the key.
My question goes to the government and the pharmaceutical industry: What are you going to do?
More information about vitamin D: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Lettersandcirculars/Dearcolleagueletters/DH_132509 http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/PH011guidance.pdf http://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/VitaminD.pdf http://www.vitamindassociation.org/ http://ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims/resources/docs/euregister.pdf http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20710028