Child Abuse or Vitamin D Deficiency?
I watched in horror the Panorama programme on BBC 1 on Monday "I Want My Baby Back".
The heart wrenching stories of parents who had lost their children, some forever as they have now been adopted, because they were accused of child abuse when their child was found to have bone fractures without an explanation.
It's not for me to judge whether they were cases of abuse or not, but the possibility was raised that these children could be suffering with Vitamin D deficiency, which softens and weakens the bones. If the mother is breast-feeding and is deficient in Vitamin D herself then this will, of course, affect the baby.
In the Victorian times Vitamin D deficiency was a common problem known as Rickets. It was thought to have disappeared due to Vitamin D being added to foods such as cereals and margarine.
Vitamin D deficiency is not something that is routinely checked either in children or adults, so it can go undiagnosed until fractures happen and/or a test is carried out. Rickets cannot be diagnosed by X-ray so often hospital doctors assume that the babies and children with multiple fractures must be as a result of being abused.
Apart from foods that we eat, we get Vitamin D from being in the sun. However, these days we are aware of the dangers of sun and skin cancers, this may have contributed to an increase in Vitamin D deficiency in adults as well as children. In addition, children are not playing outside as much as screens have become their entertainment often, while others are covered up for religious reasons.
Interestingly the Evening Standard wrote an article on 13th January, presumably following the programme, to say that GP's are being now taught how to recognise Vitamin D deficiency, such as poor growth, delayed walking and seizures.
This doesn't help the families who have lost their children through no fault of their own, and the system has let them down. How can we help this happening again for other families?
It is invaluable to check the status of our vitamins and minerals. So many of the foods we eat are processed or are grown in unnatural conditions and therefore have lost the valuable nutrients that we all so badly need. We think we are eating good quality, healthy foods but with the pesticides and chemicals that are sprayed on them and the processes they go through this may not be the case.
Rather than waste money on nutrients we are not short of it is better to have them checked and get expert advice on the correct quantities to take of those that we need to improve.