Thursday 21 July 2016

Vitamin D tablets for all

After years of being told to avoid sunlight and red meat, we are now being told to take pills to prevent a disease that can be avoided by getting some sun and eating red meat.

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice in England and Wales says.

This is to avoid rickets, a disease that was pretty much wiped out by good nutrition in post-war Britain but which has recently made a comeback. Five years ago, a doctor in sunny Southampton commented on the rise in new cases...

At Southampton General Hospital, we have recently uncovered evidence to suggest a resurgence of vitamin D deficiency amongst children.

Our study has shown that this is not confined to the lower classes or ethnic minorities, with those from the leafy suburbs and coastal towns just as likely to be affected.

... Parents need to be aware that always covering up in the sun and not allowing their children to get a moderate amount of sunshine can lead to problems too.

Rickets remains rare, however, and is largely confined to children who are kept out of the sun or who have fad diets. People who cover themselves up for religious reasons or because they have obsessively protective parents can be at risk, but given the very small number of people who have a vitamin D deficiency, you would think that targeting at-risk groups with advice to get in the sun and eat some eggs, fish and beef would be the way forward. Those people who are not prepared to make these lifestyle changes - vegans, burqa-wearing women etc. - could be advised to take vitamin D pills.

But this is the world of 'public health' where the whole population has to be alarmed and medicated in equal measure. You can't be too careful, can you?

Well, yes you can. Vitamin D pills cost money, and encouraging 65 million people to take one every day for at least six months of the year is a gigantic waste of it.     

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