Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Maternal shortage of vitamin D linked to an increase in rickets among children

Recent research has shown that doctors fear a resurgence of rickets – particularly in Asian or dark skinned children, where the incidence may be as high as 1 in a 100 - due to a lack of vitamin D.

Rickets is a bone disease mainly caused by a lack of the vitamin. It can lead to deformities, stunted growth and general ill-health.

"If a pregnant or breastfeeding woman is lacking in vitamin D, the baby will also have low vitamin D and calcium levels which can lead babies to develop seizures in the first months of life." Further complications mean that there is a chance that your child may become anaemic (when the blood is unable to carry enough oxygen around the body) and this not only affects your child’s behaviour, but may lead to lack of attention and the inability to concentrate at school.

Dr Colin Michie, a paediatrician at Ealing Hospital, says the biggest problem is maternal shortage of vitamin D. "Mothers and babies are simply not getting enough of this important vitamin.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women have been urged to boost their vitamin D intake particularly in the winter months amid warnings that cases of rickets in children are increasing. There are two ways of getting sufficient vitamin D – one is through sunlight and the other is through certain foods or supplementation.

It is thought that most people in the UK may get enough vitamin D from sunlight – from 15-20 minutes of sun exposure to the arms, head and shoulders each day during the summer months - to make enough vitamin D for good health. However, research has shown that in winter months at latitudes of 52 degrees north (above Birmingham), there is no ultraviolet light of the appropriate wavelength for the body to make vitamin D in the skin. Furthermore, there is no accurate way to assess what is adequate sunshine exposure for any given infant or child.

Melody Mackeown, Nutritionist & Foresight Practitioner, says as vitamin D also helps calcium to be absorbed and this has implications for the normal development of bones, teeth, and nerves, as well as heart health. If you are pregnant or are trying to conceive and do not obtain sufficient vitamin D from your diet or lifestyle then this may adversely affect your children later on. You may also be affected directly by developing soft bones.

UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown Dip.ION (mBANT) offers pre-conceptual care, fertility and pregnancy care right in the city of London, EC2.