All children under five are at risk of developing rickets because of their present lifestyles, the UK government's Chief Medical Officer said earlier this month.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Director General of Research and Development and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS, said children should be given Vitamin D daily and she posted the recommendation on the Department of Health's website.
Her advice comes after data revealed a dramatic increase in Rickets, a crippling disease in children resulting from a lack of exposure to sunlight as children stay indoors playing computer games and watching TV.
The Department of Health has produced an information directive for health professionals to inform them about Vitamin D deficiency and help doctors identify those at greatest risk of deficiency. A spokesperson said, "Supplements are recommended for pregnant women and young children. GPs and nurses offer advice as part of routine consultations and disadvantaged families get them free."
A study at Southampton General Hospital (SGH) found more than 20% of children tested for bone problems showed signs of the crippling disease Rickets.
Professor Nicholas Clarke, an orthopaedic surgeon at SGH, said, "Vitamin D is not easy to get but it is available in tablet form. My only wish is this advice had been a bit more categoric. I think we're finally getting round to following the Sweden model which can only be a good thing to try and cut out the deficiencies for children. It must be encouraged.'
'Vitamin D supplements are a common part of the daily diet for children in Sweden because of the limited hours of sunlight.
'The problem for parents is in striking a balance with deficiency and giving children enough sun exposure and the threat of skin damage.'
Rickets cause the bones to become soft and weak. In extreme cases it can lead to fractures and deformities such as bowed legs and curvature of the spine.
Rickets was common 100 years ago during the Industrial Revolution when diets were poor and many cities surrounded by thick smog limited sunlight.
One victim, reported in the UK newspaper "The Mail" was 12-year-old girl Tyler Attrill, from the Isle of Wight, who wore factor-50 sunscreen depriving her of the vitamin despite spending hours in the sun during her school holidays.
The girl was diagnosed by Professor Clarke following tests to establish why she failed to recover properly from an unrelated operation on her hip and suffered constant pain and weakness in her legs.
Tyler's mother made sure her daughter wore plenty of high-factor suncream when she played outside but did not realize it would affect Tyler's vitamin D levels so severely.
The mother said she was delighted recent newspaper and TV exposure of her case had contributed towards health chiefs giving more advice to make up for Vitamin D deficiency.
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