Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vitamin D deficiency in UK a 'major problem'

This is a disgrace. Official scares about avoiding skin cancer by staying out of the sun would have to be a major factor in this. Sun-loving Australians must get 1,000 times more sun exposure than Brits but skin cancer is only a minor problem among them, not even requiring surgery, usually. A quick spray with liquid nitrogen and that is the end of it usually

A quarter of all toddlers in the UK are lacking Vitamin D, according to research.

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for those people at risk of deficiency, including all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five, and the elderly, but 74 per cent of parents know nothing about them and more than half of healthcare professionals are also unaware, the BBC said.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, described the issue as a "major problem". He told BBC Breakfast: "We see about one case of rickets a month in our hospital, but that's the very severe end of the disease. "There are many other children who have less severe problems - muscle weakness, delay in walking, bone pains - and research indicates that in many parts of the country the majority of children have a low level of Vitamin D."

He explained that it was discovered that Vitamin D prevents rickets about 100 years ago when most children in London suffered from the disease, and it was later eradicated.

But then, in the 1950s, there was concern that children were getting too much Vitamin D in food supplements and cod liver oil and supplements were stopped. This was unlike in other Western countries where they continued, he said. Dr Jacobs said: "We thought they were unnecessary, possibly harmful, and that was a major mistake."

He said parents are largely unaware of the risk of the condition, while health professionals are often taught that rickets is a disease of the past.

"It's really only over the past 10 years or so that I've noticed children with Vitamin D deficiency. and still I would say today, the majority of doctors, health visitors, midwives, nurses, are not aware enough of the problem," he said.

Asked about how vulnerable people can be given more Vitamin D, Dr Jacobs said current guidelines suggest taking drops or tablets, but experts are also looking into food supplementation.

He said it would not be harmful if people ended up with too much Vitamin D in their diet.

Current guidelines suggest that children and pregnant women should have 400 units a day, but he described this as a "conservative" level compared to the US, where he said a study suggested pregnant women should have 4,000 units. "In my view, it is extremely safe," he added.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said the Government would be reviewing the issue. She said: "We know a significant proportion of people in the UK probably have inadequate levels of Vitamin D in their blood.

"People at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant women and children under five, are already advised to take daily supplements. "Our experts are clear - low levels of Vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.

"Many health professionals such as midwives, GPs and nurses give advice on supplements, and it is crucial they continue to offer this advice as part of routine consultations and ensure disadvantaged families have access to free Vitamin supplements through our Healthy Start scheme.

"It is important to raise awareness of this issue, and I will be contacting health professionals on the need to prescribe and recommend Vitamin D supplements to at-risk groups.

"The Department of Health has also asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to review the important issue of current dietary recommendations on Vitamin D."


Brain scans could diagnose dyslexic children before they even learn to read and head off difficulties at school

Some children with dyslexia go undiagnosed for years, leading to prolonged learning difficulties and children who are angry and frustrated at school. But all that could be a thing of the past.

Scientists now say they can identify the reading problem before children even start school, and long before they become labeled as poor students and begin to lose confidence in themselves.
Dyslexia typically is not identified until children are seven or eight and demonstrate real problems with their reading

Dyslexia typically is not identified until children are seven or eight and demonstrate real problems with their reading

Although children are not typically diagnosed with dyslexia until they are around 7 or 8 years old - a team from Children's Hospital Boston said they could see signs of the disease on brain scans in children as young as 4 or 5 years old.

This age is also when studies show children are most able to respond to interventions. 'We call it the dyslexia paradox,' said Nadine Gaab of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at the hospital, whose study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gaab said most children are not diagnosed until they demonstrate problems reading, but helping children with dyslexia works best if you start before they even begin to learn to read.

'Often, by the time they get a diagnosis, they usually have experienced three years of peers telling them they are stupid, parents telling them they are lazy. We know they have reduced self esteem. They are really struggling,' Gaab said.

Her study builds on an emerging understanding of dyslexia as a problem with recognizing and manipulating the individual sounds that form language - which is known as phonological processing.

In order to read, children must map the sounds of spoken language onto specific letters that make up words. Children with dyslexia struggle with this mapping process.

'The beauty is spoken language can present before written language so people can look for symptoms,' said Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University.

Signs of early dyslexia might include difficulty with rhyming, mispronouncing words or confusing similar-sounding words. 'Those are all very early symptoms,' Shaywitz said.

Dyslexia affects roughly 5 per cent to 17 per cent of all children. And up to 50 per cent of children with a family history of the disorder will struggle with reading, have poor spelling and experience difficulty decoding words.

In her study, Gaab and colleagues scanned the brains of 36 pre-school children while they did a number of tasks, such as trying to decide if two words start with the same sound.

They found that during these tasks, children who had a family history of dyslexia had less brain activity in certain regions of the brain than did children of similar ages, intelligence and socioeconomic status.

Older children and adults with dyslexia have dysfunction in these same areas of the brain, which include the junctions between the occipital and temporal lobes and the temporal and parietal lobes in the back of the brain. 'Often, by the time [children with dyslexia] get a diagnosis, they usually have experienced three years of peers telling them they are stupid'

Gaab said the study shows that when children predisposed to dyslexia did these tasks, their brains did not use the area typically used for processing this information. This problem occurred even before the children started learning to read.

'The important point of this paper is it shows the need to look for signs of dyslexia earlier,' said April Benasich, director of the Carter Center for Neurocognitive Research at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, who was not part of the study.

Benasich studies language processing in even younger children - babies who have a family history of learning disorders. 'There is evidence to suggest that what is thought to be reading failure is there before the kids fail,' she said.

Gaab said her study is too small to form the basis of any test for dyslexia but her team has just won a grant from the National Institutes of Health to do a larger study. Ultimately, she hopes parents will be able to go to their doctor and ask for their child to be assessed.

'Families often know that their child has dyslexia as early as kindergarten, but they can't get interventions at their schools,' she said in a statement. 'If we can show that we can identify these kids early, schools may be encouraged to develop programs.'


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