Experts have stated that parents should consider offering their children vitamin D supplements as the number suffering from deficiency has almost trebled over a four-year period.
Official figures indicate that 4638 children admitted to NHS hospitals during 2013/14 suffered from a vitamin D deficiency, compared to 1398 cases during 2009/10.
Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to rickets in children and increases the risk of cancers and osteoporosis in adults.
According to experts, the reason for this could be due to children spending more time on gaming consoles and computers during the summer months, therefore having a low level of vitamin D by the time winter arrives.
In Britain, sunlight between November and March lacks ultraviolet B radiation, which means people should try to get as much sunlight exposure during summer to stock up for the lean winter months.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) earlier this year issued guidance stating that 20% of Britons could now be deficient.
Experts have attributed the recent increase to increased vitamin D testing among people admitted to hospitals for other issues.
The chief medical officer for England stated last year that the NHS should offer free vitamins to every child within the country in order to avoid the return of rickets.
This bone-deforming disease was rife during the Victorian era, but had subsequently been eliminated almost entirely. However, over the past 15 years, it has returned and increased almost by five times. Along with causing bow legs, brittle bones and other deformities, vitamin D deficiencies could become fatal as it causes a particular type of heart failure.
A survey commissioned by the Vitamin D Mission, a public health awareness campaign, including 250 GPs and health visitors, discovered that around one third were unaware of the advice from Government that children between the ages of six months and five years should be given a daily supplement, particularly during the winter months.
A consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dr Benjamin Jacobs, said these findings were extremely concerning as it appears to suggest that UK parents are still not adequately informed of the health issues linked to low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is present in red meat, some fortified foods, egg yolk and oily fish, but the major source of the vitamin is sunlight.
Around 20% of adults in the UK suffer with low vitamin D levels. This implies that they have below 25nmol/litre of the active type of the vitamin in their bodies.
This deficiency can occur at any age, but is more often experienced during periods of rapid growth, during breastfeeding and during pregnancy.
Nice issued guidance earlier this year which stated that the elderly are also at high risk, particularly those who are housebound, in care homes, or confined to their homes most of the time.
Image Credit: Richard Leeming