LIFESTYLE
12/05/2014 07:22 BST | Updated 12/05/2014 07:59 BST

Vitamin D Should Be Given To Kids Yet Most Parents Aren't Aware Of The Benefits, Says Study

With children prone to fussy eating, getting goodness into your kids can be a tough job for parents.

Encouraging your children to eat fruit and veg is tough enough, but did you know children should also be taking food supplements to provide them with extra vitamins?

The majority of parents are ignoring health guidance and not giving their children essential vitamins, new figures suggest.

children vitamins

Despite NHS guidance suggesting that children aged six months to five years should receive daily vitamin D supplements, 59% of parents are not taking up the advice, a poll found.

The survey, commissioned by the Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA), found that 64% felt their children were getting enough vitamin D from their diets alone.

The poll, which saw 10,000 UK adults questioned, including 5,800 parents, found that 76% of people didn't know that youngsters are advised to take vitamin D supplements.

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And more than a third said there was not enough information available about food supplements.

Last year, England's chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies recommended that all under fives should receive free drops or tablets containing vitamins A, C and D.

At present only low-income families qualify for free vitamins on the NHS but there are rising concerns about the number of children who develop rickets - the most common cause of the bone condition is a lack of vitamin D.

Health officials have estimated that 40% of children are not getting enough vitamin D.

The best source of vitamin D, which is essential for keeping teeth and bones healthy, is sun on the skin. It only occurs naturally in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs, and is added to some items such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals.

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Foods With Vitamin D

Dr Adrian Martineau, vitamin D expert and clinical reader in respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said: "One key reason why so many are deficient is because since the 1990s, in an attempt to reduce the risk of skin cancer, most of the developed world has become increasingly adverse to sun exposure.

"In addition, vitamin D is also a fat-soluble hormone and as such, gets stored in the body's fat reserves - where it is unable to carry out its normal role. With rising levels of obesity, more of us have greater amounts of body fat and this is reducing the effective levels of vitamin D.

"This further highlights the importance of supplementation in this nutrient as a public health issue."

HFMA's executive director Graham Keen added: "The public needs access to straightforward, responsible information about how essential vitamins and minerals work.

"Everyone should know that the best solution for most people to consume key nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, is to eat as healthy a diet as possible. However, it should be recognised that a daily food supplement provides important insurance for millions looking to safeguard their nutritional intake."