Specialists warn of “epidemic” of vitamin D deficiency

A prominent academic has warned that this year’s dull summer could lead to record levels of vitamin D deficiency.

Professor Norman Ratcliffe from Swansea University says that a combination a 21st Century childhood of not playing outside and constantly wearing high factor sunscreen has been compounded by a poor summer. The result is that vitamin D levels have not been replenished sufficiently for the long winter months.

Professor Ratcliffe told the Daily Telgraph that parts of northern England recorded sunshine hours in summer similar to late winter.

He told the newspaper: “Unfortunately, the dull summer of 2012 will probably result in a record number of people with vitamin D deficiency. The situation in 2012 is probably much more serious than normal with the dull summer leading to even more people with vitamin D deficiency.”

He added: “The effects of low vitamin D levels in the body are very serious as adequate levels may be necessary to prevent common cancers, heart and autoimmune diseases, rickets, osteomalacia (bone pain and muscle weakness), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and depression.”

Separately, children’s health specialist professor Nicolas Clarke from Southampton General Hospital has warned that more children are at risk of developing rickets. He says an education drive on the risks is needed as “primary care doctors are not up to speed”. Professor Clarke told the Daiuly Mail that “widespread fortification of foods with vitamin D and use of supplements is the only way to combat the problem”.