The Feeding for Life Foundation said a “nutrient gap” existed for under-5s and suggested a range of measures to bridge it. These included:
- fortifying commonly consumed foods
- using more of those fortified foods that are already available on our shelves
- introducing safe sunlight exposure recommendations as this is the main source of vitamin D
- supporting HCPs and parents through education
The report discovered that:
- 51% of health care professionals (HCPs) are either not sure or unaware of the UK department’s supplementation recommendations
- 56% of HCPsdo not discuss the importance of vitamin supplementation with parents
- 58% of HCPs agree that they don’t have sufficient information about strategies other than vitamin supplementation to increase vitamin levels in under-5s
- 73% agreed that HCPs don’t have enough training about the benefits of supplements
The report states: “…recent data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggests that there is a nutrient gap, with a large percentage of infants and toddlers not achieving recommended intakes of vitamin D crucial to their healthy development.”
It states vitamin D supplementation recommendations exist but are not heeded and many HCPs and care givers are unaware of them and that new data about such recommendations is required to better understand the nutrient needs of under-5s.
“Current supplementation strategies such as the Healthy Start scheme are proving to be ineffective.”
The report was led by paediatrician Dr Robert Moy and Julie Lanigan, a specialist dietitian, who note that vitamin K and vitamin D are the two least abundant vitamins in young children’s bodies because the internal manufacturing processes are more complex.
“Vitamin D deficiency is a more complex issue with potentially more longer term consequences,” they write.
“In theory it should be possible for children to obtain all the other nutrients they need from dietary sources. However the current eating habits of many pregnant women and young children are far from the ‘healthy balanced diet’required to deliver adequate nutrient level.”
The vitamin D reference nutrient intake (RNI) for 1-3 year-olds in the UK is 7 micrograms per day.
The report was supported by Cow & Gate.