Vitamin D deficiency leads to a serious bone condition called Rickets, which is now re-emerging in Irish children and is fast becoming as a serious public health concern.
Vitamin D deficiency was thought to have been eradicated in Ireland after the Second World War, due to better nutrition. However, over 20 cases of rickets in infants and toddlers have been reported at two Dublin hospitals in the last five years.
Infants obtain around 50% of their vitamin D stores from their mother at birth, but research has found that maternal Vitamin D status in Ireland is low. Most of our Vitamin D is produced by the action of the sun’s UV rays on our skin. However, due to the fact that Ireland is 51 – 55 degrees north of the equator, little or no Vitamin D can be produced from sunlight between October & March/April as the angle of the sun is too low! Furthermore, poor summers & use of sun protections factors to reduce the risk of skin cancer also have a role to play in our declining vitamin D status. The final piece of information to complete this jigsaw is that very little Vitamin D is derived from food! All of these factors, coupled with the strong advice that infants should never be exposed to direct sunlight, means we find ourselves in a proverbial ‘catch 22’ situation!
The HSE & The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (www.fsai.ie) now recommend that all babies be given a Vitamin D supplement until their first birthday. The single supplementation should contain Vitamin D only, and no other vitamins. Several preparations are available (e.g. Baby Vit D3). Ask your GP or pharmacist for further information and advice on specific “Vitamin D only” brands & appropriate dosage.