By Dr John Reed, Children’s Orthopaedics, Southampton General Hospital, 4 February 2011:
I recently watched families - wrapped head to toe in multiple layers - make the most of some Sunday afternoon winter sun.
However, my enjoyment was slightly capped by the concern in the back of my mind that, despite beautiful days like these, childhood rickets in the UK is back.
Rickets - childhood vitamin D deficiency resulting in skeletal pains or bony deformities - was, until recently, thought to be a thing of the past in our developed society and historically associated with poverty-stricken communities or fictional characters such as Tiny Tim from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
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.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound essential for bone growth and mineralisation during childhood.
It is produced in the skin following exposure to ultraviolet B light with a small amount occurring naturally in foods such as oily fish, eggs and meat.