Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vitamin D screening could help prevent return of rickets

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) urged the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, to consider introducing a screening programme to identify vitamin D deficiency in children. Deputy Doherty raised the issue in a recent Parliamentary Question to the Minister.

“Reports in the UK suggest that rickets, a bone disease associated with the 18th century, is on the increase, due to a combination of dietary and lifestyle measures. The disease can be extremely painful and can cause stunted growth, bowed legs and enlarged wrists and ankles.

“The return of rickets has been attributed to a number of factors including the overuse of sun cream, poor diet and our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. I believe a screening programme or an information campaign could help to prevent this very serious health problem from making a comeback.

“The Minister has confirmed to me that the Department of Health has not carried out any recent studies of the vitamin D levels of Irish children, and therefore it is very difficult to ascertain the scale of the problem. However recent national dietary surveys carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have identified low and, in some cases, deficient intakes of vitamin D in children.

“The Minister also pointed out that vitamin D deficiency is a problem for all age groups living in Ireland because of poor sunlight and the fact that, apart from oily fish, there are not many good natural sources of the vitamin. A national policy of vitamin D supplementation of all infants in Ireland has been implemented and the targeted needs of other sub-groups in the population such as pregnant women are currently being examined.

“This issue has attracted considerable attention in the UK recently, after a six year old boy was diagnosed with rickets because he was wearing too much factor 50 sun cream. While this kind of case might be rare, I do think we need to take heed of worrying trends and consider what we can do to prevent a return of rickets in this country.”

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