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Experts Urge Parents to Make "Every Day a Vitamin D Day", as UK Winter Arrives

LONDON, October 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Survey commissioned by Vitamin D Mission shows parents are in the dark about the lack of sunshine vitamin during winter and the importance of vitamin D to their children's diet[1]
  • Hospital data shows 231% national increase in rates of vitamin D deficiency amongst toddlers and children in five years[2]

New data published today for National Vitamin D Awareness Week has found that parents are unaware that the UK climate is denying their toddlers and children vitamin D during the winter months.[1] New hospital data also released today shows increasing numbers of children diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency and bone-softening conditions such as rickets[2] - a disease common during Victorian times.

The survey of parents of 0-5 year olds revealed that only 4% were able to distinguish between the months that the skin can make vitamin D from sunlight, and the months that it can't.[1] While safe sun exposure in the summer is a good source of vitamin D for children, the sunlight in the UK in winter (November to March) is absorbed by the atmosphere and is not strong enough for the skin to produce vitamin D.[3] Furthermore, 82% of parents are unaware of Department of Health guidance that all infants and young children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D.[1]

Jenni Falconer, young mum and TV presenter, who is supporting the Vitamin D Mission to help raise awareness of the importance of vitamin D to the health of under 5s says: "As a family, we like to spend as much time as possible outdoors and I assumed my little girl would get all the vitamin D she needs from the sun; however, through my work with the Vitamin D Mission I now understand that this isn't the case, especially during the winter months. So, I'm going to make a special effort throughout this season to ensure we include more naturally vitamin D-rich foods at home, such as oily fish and eggs as well as vitamin D-enriched cereals and milks, so we're all getting our daily intake of vitamin D and I whole-heartedly encourage other mums and dads to do the same."

Dr Ellie Cannon, celebrity doctor and practising GP, commented: "The average British toddler is only getting 27% of their reference nutrient intake of vitamin D and much more work needs to be done to increase awareness among parents and healthcare professionals. Government guidance states that all infants and young children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D, and during winter this is particularly important. In addition, parents can make a few simple adjustments to their children's diet such as including more naturally-rich and enhanced vitamin D foods."  

Other insightful findings from the survey revealed that 50% of parents admit to knowing "not much" or "nothing" about the role of vitamin D in their child's health and over a third (35%) have never received any information about the importance of vitamin D in their child's health.[1]

Almost one third of GPs and health visitors, who were interviewed as part of a separate study, were unaware of government guidelines on daily supplementation.[4] Furthermore, only 7% of GPs and health visitors - responsible for conveying key healthcare messages to new mums - were aware which months the sunlight in the UK is strong enough for our skin to synthesise vitamin D.[4]

Latest figures from hospital data collated by the Vitamin D Mission also show that the diagnoses of vitamin D deficiency and rickets amongst 0-16 year olds have increased threefold from 1,398 cases in 2009/10 to 4,638 cases in 2013/14.[2]

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and clinical consultant to the Vitamin D Mission, said: "These findings are very worrying as they seem to suggest that parents in the UK are still not properly informed of the major health issues associated with low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D related conditions, such as rickets, are increasing year on year so there is a need for us to work harder in ensuring parents are aware of the Department of Health guidelines and acting on it."

He added, "Due to the weak sunlight during the winter months, we are urging parents to make every day a vitamin D day, and include naturally occurring or fortified vitamin D-rich foods into their children's diets, or to provide them with a daily supplement."

As part of Vitamin D Mission's campaign to eradicate vitamin D deficiency in 0-5 year olds, an online test has been developed for parents allowing them to calculate whether their child's vitamin D intake is sufficient, which can be found here. For more information on what is currently being done to tackle the issue of vitamin D deficiency in 0-5 year olds in the UK, visit http://www.vitamindmission.co.uk.


    Key survey results conducted by YouGov* and Opinion Health**

    Only 4% of parents were able to distinguish between the months that the skin
    can make vitamin D from sunlight, and the months that it can't*
    Up to 50% of parents know not much / nothing about the role of vitamin D in
    their child's health*
    35% of parents have never received any information about the importance of
    vitamin D in their child's health*
    Up to 82% of parents are unaware of Department of Health guidance on vitamin
    D*
    33% of GPs and HCPs who are unaware of Department of Health guidance on
    vitamin D**
    Only 7% of GPs and HCPs are aware which months the sunlight in the UK is
    strong enough for skins to synthesise vitamin D**
    Diagnoses of vitamin D deficiency / rickets amongst 0-16 year olds has
    increased by 231% between 2009/10 to 2013/14

                Inpatient Admissions with any Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency

                                    Age group: 0 to 16 years old (inclusive)[2]
             Region           2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014  % Change
         East Midlands               25        72       145       179       182      628%
        East of England             142       133       211       278       330      132%
             London                 374       609     1,132     1,681     1,557      316%
           North East                21        21        32        67        59      181%
           North West               322       462       704       848       888      176%
           South East                70       127       217       360       342      389%
           South West               147       271       297       213       151        3%
         West Midlands              119       161       267       424       453      281%
    Yorkshire and The Humber        103       166       243       389       449      336%

About the surveys

HCP survey study design (conducted by Opinion Health on behalf of Vitamin D Mission)

Opinion Health conducted a poll on 250 UK healthcare professionals, including 150 general practitioners and 100 health visitors between 21st September - 7th October 2014. Participants were drawn from 10 regions of England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The survey was carried out online.

Consumer survey study design (conducted by YouGov on behalf of Vitamin D Mission)

YouGov conducted a poll of 1,108 parents who have children aged 5 or under. This overall sample was almost entirely equal in distribution between each of the 11 government regions of Great Britain, with a minimum of 100 in each region. Fieldwork was conducted between 26th September - 2nd October 2014. The survey was carried out online.

Hospital Episode Statistics data

The data presented represents the number of either primary or secondary diagnoses of vitamin D deficiency in hospital for 0-16 year olds. Primary diagnosis for vitamin D means that is the primary reason for their admission, and secondary diagnosis means that they have been admitted for another primary reason but doctors have also diagnosed vitamin D deficiency. Admissions have been counted wherever the following ICD-10 codes appear as a diagnosis: E550, Rickets, active; E559, Vitamin D deficiency, unspecified. The analysis also shows % change over the five year period, 2009-10 to 2013-14 (a 100% change means the number of admissions has doubled).

About the Vitamin D Mission

The Vitamin D Mission is a public health awareness campaign, which aims to eradicate vitamin D deficiency in the UK's under-5s. As part of the campaign, the Mission has launched an online test which allows parents to estimate how much vitamin D their child is getting. Launched in 2014, the campaign is supported by the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital, toddler brand Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk, BetterYou, pioneers of DLux vitamin D oral sprays, and Kellogg's, leading provider of fortified breakfast cereals. To learn more about the Vitamin D Mission visit VitaminDMission.co.uk

The Vitamin D Calculator

The Vitamin D Mission has developed the Vitamin D Calculator, an online test for parents to estimate how much vitamin D their child is getting. The Vitamin D Calculator offers tips and hints on how sources of vitamin D can be included. To learn more about the Vitamin D Mission and the calculator visit http://www.vitamindmission.co.uk/.

About National Vitamin D Awareness Week (20th-26th October 2014)

National Vitamin D Awareness Week, led by health pioneers BetterYou, this year focuses on children, following reports that more than half (60%) of UK parents are unconcerned about the risk of insufficient vitamin D levels in their child. The new findings have worried health experts, who fear the UK's under-5s may be missing out on the essential vitamin, due to a lack of awareness of its benefits and the potential health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. The campaign has been bolstered around this issue with two strong new messages to counter common myths about vitamin D for children's health. These are:

  • But I give my kids plenty of calcium...
    Banish the "buts..." Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium to build strong teeth and bones. It also helps prevent bone diseases like rickets, which are on the rise.
  • But my kids are too young for supplements...
    Banish the "buts..." The Department of Health recommends vitamin D supplementation from 6 months old, due to the lack of essential vitamin D in our diet.

References 

  1. YouGov survey poll results (October 2014). Data on file
  2. HES data 2009/2010 - 2013/2014. Data on file
  3. Generation D Report commissioned by Vitamin D Mission (March 2014)
  4. Opinion Health survey poll results (October 2014). Data on file

 

SOURCE Vitamin D Mission



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