The BBC here in the UK has had a recent blitz on stories relating to vitamin D, particularly vitamin D deficiency in children and its potential to cause rickets (and the characteristic weakened, deformed bones prone to fracture). However, some doctors are suspicious that vitamin D deficiency may be an underlying factor in ‘sudden infant death’.
Here is a link to an item which aired yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. There are comments from individuals within this item that leave one with the distinct impression that many health professionals are unaware of the issue of vitamin D deficiency in children. A lawyer who represented parents who were wrongly accused killing their child (who after death was diagnosed with rickets) tells of how a senior radiologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital (generally regarded as the UK’s ‘best’ children’s hospital) failed to recognise rickets or the importance of vitamin D.
The item features Dr Marta Cohen (from Sheffield Children’s Hospital) who has discovered vitamin D deficiency in 75 per cent of children who had died of sudden infant death syndrome. This does not mean that the vitamin D deficiency caused any or all of these deaths. Nevertheless, there are ways in which vitamin D deficiency might cause death, and it’s clearly valid for vitamin D deficiency to be considered in children who appear to have suffered abuse or have died suddenly.
Recently, the BBC featured paediatrician Dr Benjamin Jacobs who is seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets where he works at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital here in the UK (video below).
Dr Jacobs makes the point that doctors are often failing to recognise and treat rickets appropriately. Dr Jacobs is quoted here as saying:
There are many other children who have less severe problems – muscle weakness, delay in walking, bone pains – and research indicates that in many parts of the country the majority of children have a low level of vitamin D.
It’s obviously not a good thing that so many children may be suffering from compromised health and possibly lose their lives as a result of vitamin D deficiency. What is good, though, is that this issue is getting mainstream attention, and that some dedicated individuals are doing what they can to raise awareness of this issue.