The UK’s Chief Medical Officer says a scheme that offers free vitamins A, C and D to under-5s in low-income familes, should be extended all children to boost their health and avoid illness and disease.
As part of a range of measures, professor Dame Sally Davies said such a scheme would reduce public health care costs.
Speaking on BBC Radio she said of vitamin D deficiencies that affect 25% of British children: "Vitamin D deficiency is not just about poverty."
"Children get very locked on to screens and it can be difficult to turf them out into the sunlight. But the sun in the winter doesn't give you as much vitamin D so this is necessary."
The suggestion was backed in Australia by the Complementary Healthcare Council (CHC).
“Australia, too, needs to be more ambitious about giving every child the best start in life, and to date, the contribution complementary medicines can make has been absent from Australia’s preventive health agenda,” said CEO Carl Gibson.
“As the peak industry body in Australia for vitamins, minerals and supplements - known as complementary medicines – and as a supporter of preventive health, the CHC is heartened by the publication of the UK report and it’s recognition of the enormous potential for complementary medicines to demonstrate savings from disease prevention and health promotion.”
Jessica Williams, chairman of the British Dietetic Association Paediatric Group, said: “There are some dietary sources of vitamins in oily fish and eggs, and some foods are fortified such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals. However, it is difficult for young children in the quantities of food they eat to receive sufficient for their growing needs and therefore are at risk of being deficient. We support Prof Dame Sally Davies recommendation for universal supplementation.”
Pinki Sahota, professor of Nutrition and Childhood Obesity and Feeding for Life Foundation (FfLF) chair, backed Davies but said her suggestions did not go far enough.
Sahota called for, "consideration of a number of strategies to improve vitamin D levels in young children."
It pointed to its report, BRIDGING THE GAP , which, "identifies significant barriers that still need to be overcome if we are going to improve children’s vitamin D levels. To address this, the FfLF has been creating tools and resources to improve ... knowledge and confidence around the nutritional needs of the under-5s.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies' report – Our Children Deserve Better, Prevention Pays – can be found here .